Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How different the world is with a smart phone.

I have been putting off the smart phone transition everyone else has done for years because of the costs which seemed much higher than a land line and less reliable during emergencies. I recall that during the events of Sept. 11, 2001 here in Washington DC that the news reported that people trying to use their smart cell phones overloaded the system towers and couldn't get through to anyone. I thought that was a great reason not to buy into the expensive programs that I didn't understand. The pushy advertising also turned me off to the trend. Eventually however I got a "pay as you go" phone to carry in an emergency with me in the car or walking around.
Pay Phone on the metro platform 2010. 

It became clear that people no longer would stop on the side of the road if you broke down to offer help or a ride to a pay phone and public pay phones were disappearing or broken everywhere. Since I drive an older car, the thought of being stuck was what got me to buy into the Star Trek style flip phone. With this fairly inexpensive toy-phone I enjoyed having a way to contact people when I was meeting them out in the city and felt confidant I could and did get help from AAA when I needed. Over the years Verizon landline division (they are separate companies now) jacked the price of land line service up higher and higher without adding any new features, only over taxing my meager income, while the Verizon wireless offered so many things including constant access to the Internet and everything that comes with it so the big stumbling block was to take the leap to the new device and to have enough money to buy the first phone. This past Christmas when asked what I wanted I decided it was time to be an iPhone 6 user and asked for that as my favored gift of the season. So the culture shift came for me when the new year began...

I sketch on metro rides to and from downtown and at some point in the last 15 years we began to notice people were using these smart cell phones everywhere all the time. Checking out of the boring ride home or downtown they sit with all their attention directed at the hand held device. They made easy targets for sketches as they didn't move much and they didn't look up at what I was doing. That was kind of fun but often the hands moved a lot making illustrating them more challenging. I still prefer a rider with a book or a newspaper or just sleeping.

 I grew more interested in these smart phones when social media began pulling bloggers away from their blog posts and over to platforms of image sharing that did not admit old fashioned users of desktop or laptop computers to see nor post images. I was stuck writing my blog posts to share stories and images in a more thoughtful way which might be considered literate next to the new ways.
That opened up eventually and now you can look at Instagram images and posts via those vintage household devices but it's not as immediate as having it all in the palm of your hand. Clearly smart phones also have a camera now which makes sharing experiences instantly very simple, almost de rigueur but from the other side of the metro car it isn't clear what all the excitement is about and how it holds on to the rider's interest so completely.

 Sometimes I see people just holding their smart phones not using them for anything but clutching it like a pair of gloves that one doesn't want to misplace when facing cold weather...
 Others zone out while listening to music, pod casts and the new books on "tape" that are read to you out loud by some skilled actor; great for us dyslexics.

 Often people are just flipping through this and that, emails, song choices or even talking to people while they are on the go. This can be very disruptive on a quiet metro car or walking down the street its queer to hear someone talking and not know if they are addressing you or some unseen person over their private airwaves.
 They use them standing up and seated and walking around even while driving cars and buses or in some sad cases we have seen on the news while driving trains... This fellow all suited up held his in his groin covering up his device but equally focused on the text or what ever he was connecting with on his smart cell phone.
Children have them too filling time rather than looking around at the world they daydream in other places. This year research has been presented and more is being done on the impact of so much time looking at a screen and the lack of downtime or what we called being bored. It seems that being bored is a valuable time for your brain to be creative! So the researchers suggested turning those ever present devices of entertainment and distraction off once in a while and just daydreaming the old fashioned way to fill time. 
Anyway Keith and I joined the 21st century now that the cost is less for more but I am trying to be mindful of how I use the new smart phone. Lots of pictures to share and lots of new applications to learn to use and connect up with others. The world is different with all these connections and some are great others like instant news of a beheading and murderous world unrest and misery less so but it's the new world we live in. I suppose if there is a disaster that I can use text messaging to contact my dear ones. Email worked from my desktop in 2001 when the cell telephones did not; we just have to keep a hard wire connection to some communication device at home now to feel safe. 
Now sadly I do less sketching on metro trips but I was brave enough to snap a random person's portrait while riding downtown last week. I adore this lady and her funny hat which was actually about as funny as my own. If I had a sketch book and pen I would have drawn her without a doubt... maybe I still can from the iPhone photograph.  

selfie on the metro platform wearing my funny fur hat and coat. 


cassandra said...

Beautiful art and insights, as always! I miss not having a cell phone. Last night my book group discussed "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Did you see this essay in the NYTimes? It mentions the book and observes that now in addition to our STUFF we have the clutter of technology.

Judy said...

I find your commentary so interesting as I took a very long time to give in to the cell phone 'fad' as well. Your sketches of the traveling public are delightful.

Linda F. said...

What a very thoughtful and insightful commentary on the smart phone. It certainly is a love/hate relationship for me.

Jessie said...

How I loved reading this (on my phone)! You are quite masterful at storytelling. I have had a cell phone for 17 years and it always made me feel safe as I do a lot of interstate driving. I purchased my current phone specifically because I wanted to be on instagram with all my friends! But I do bemoan on a regular basis the number of "screens" in our household and the effect they have on our everyday moments. Hubs and I are at odds on this one; he brings the tech into the house and I fantasize about selling it on eBay and creating a simpler life. I especially agree that being bored, allowing the mind to wander, is a very good thing. I love looking at the scenery when we're driving, and your subway sketches are just so interesting. Thanks as always for sharing.