Friday, August 29, 2014

Gaining Your Smarts Back From Your Smartphone.

Tonight, it happened. Out of the blue, unexpectedly. I was taking the trash to the curb. To my complete horror, my iPhone slipped out of my hand and, like a scene out of a horror film, crashed face first on the driveway beneath me. I made a slow-mo recovery move, screaming "Noooooooooooooooooooo" as I fumbled to catch it to no avail.

There it was. Naked with no cover, face down. I was scared to look. But I looked anyway.

Shattered, broken; my heart AND my iPhone.

And then panic began to set in.

I immediately put myself in check over my reaction. I was, frankly, appalled that I was so distraught over a device. My Common Sense Angel began the great debate with the Convenience Devil, each perched on a shoulder whispering in my ear:

Ruh Roh.
Angel: "It's just a stupid phone. What is WRONG with you?" 

Devil: "You are going out of the country in less than 3 days. You can't even see your screen. All of your contacts, texting your kids, your Currency Exchange App, your map of the city! You complete dumbass. Now what???"

Angel: Seriously? Get a grip. It's a phone. You survived 20 years without one. You'll be ok.

Devil: It's a SMARTphone. And you're stupid, because all of your intelligence is in that device. You can't live without it. 

And then it hit me. They were both right. It was just a phone. Yet all of my intelligence was stuck behind a shattered screen I could barely see. Thankfully, I had the sense to acknowledge this, because I once lived a life without cell phones...An awesome life.

When I was young I knew ALL of my friend’s phone numbers by heart. I could walk deep in the woods and never worry about not finding my way out. Math was my favorite subject because I loved problem solving in my head. Sometimes I would go for days without talking to my friends outside of school. And it was no big deal. Phone communication was by house phone and sometimes it may be a day before I would get a return call. And it was OK.

"Smart" phones are crippling our world by making us all idiots. Idiot #1 is typing this blog. I know very few phone numbers by heart anymore. Why? Because they are all in my contacts. I don't need to have a sense of direction. Why? Because I have Google Maps. I don't need to solve complicated math problems nor do currency exchange in my head. Why? Because there's an App for that. And I don't call my friends on their house phones. Why? Well, most people don't have them anymore and if I'm calling or texting you on your mobile, I expect a reasonable response time. Immediately is preferred. Isn’t that what these phones are for? Instant gratification?

We no longer have the patience to wait for anything or think about anything, because we don't have to. It's all there at our fingertips. I am so mad at myself because I have fallen for it. “Convenience is best”, because, well… it’s so damn convenient. 

But at what cost?

At 41, I am fully entangled in this web of technology. My job revolves around the advancement and evolution of technology. There is no going backward, because this is the way in which our world is heading. This is the only way our children have ever lived. The rest of us who once lived without it are fully on board until one night we are taking out the trash, and BAM, our intelligence hits the driveway face first. It’s eye opening, but not the end of the world.

For us.

However, it is, quite possibly, the end of the world for those who have never had to use their sense of direction, do challenging math problems in their head, or memorize things such as phone numbers. When you think about it, it’s scary. Smart phones are making humans stupid. And we are happily (ignorantly?) letting them. We live in world where you ask a friend a question and their answer:

"Google it".

In less than 24 hours I leave to go out of the country. My iPhone screen is still shattered and it’s ok. I am going on my trip with no intention of depending on a device for things that I should be able to handle with my own common sense. I will get a paper map of the metro and surrounding areas, I will figure out the currency exchange in my head, and I will pay attention to a city in which I’ve never been and enjoy it for all its beauty without staring at 4.8” screen. Yes, the phone will travel with me and will be used for the “convenience” of touching base with my family while I am away, but things that I can do on my own, I will do…on my own. Will it be less convenient? You bet, but I plan to come back a few IQ points higher.

The irony; the entire reason for my trip is to attend work meetings in which we will discuss technology, how it’s advancing and how we, as a company, can stay ahead of the curve. How can our company use the technologies to produce better quality, faster schedules, and stand out among others…… Be better, be faster, be SMARTER?

2 days post incident, I am still distraught. Not because I have a shattered screen, but because I have lived a shattered sense of reality justifying the convenience, not just for myself but also for my teenage boys. I, ignorantly, handed them these devices so I could get in touch with them whenever I needed. All the while, I handed them the device that strips them of what our brains are intended to do; THINK. I feel like I have done something I cannot undo. Or can I? I guess I have 2 very long plane rides to figure that out.

Funny…. Seems to me the smartest thing I ever did was drop my smartphone.