Sunday, August 18, 2019 -
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Flipping out

While many people I know are all too excited to be the proud owners of an upgraded form of technology that boasts the latest and the greatest, I was indifferent. More than indifferent, actually. Secretly, I thought the hype was ridiculous. The never ending technology mirage of keeping up was something I couldn’t relate to. I remember once walking through Cherry Creek Mall with lines snaking across it, wondering what had happened. “The new iPhone was released this morning,” was the reply to my query.

I couldn’t relate to the race to be the first to have a new gadget with a micro upgrade.

Granted, I am a bit of a luddite.

This week I broke my streak of being The Last of The Mohicans, so to speak, the last of the non-smartphone owning variety. I joined the herd. Until this week, I’ve lived an app-less existence. Against my will, I finally succumbed and in 2018 I joined the 21st century.

I reached that point where people — good friends — were genuinely finding it frustrating to communicate with me. I was grateful to them for putting up with my lag in responses and general technological disconnect.

Smartphone texts weren’t compatible with my Old-School flip phone (which I also got late in the game), not to mention being able to receive photos or things like that. I texted very minimally, for logistics only, never for conversations (and I plan on sticking with that).

Personally, I was happy with the arrangement. The last thing I wanted was to be reachable by everyone, all the time.

To my mind, that’s more a curse than a convenience!

I valued my stillness and peace of mind, my emotional energy not hijacked by others; I valued getting to decide who, what and when was occupying it.

Also, the constant scrolling and icons flashing, the sheer speed of it all, felt overwhelming.

Let alone access to the constant clickbait content that was ridiculous. (Let me state on record right now that if I ever take one of those quizzes that will enlighten me about my character, based on my taste in films or food habits, please, I implore you, stage an intervention with me on the spot and have the phone removed from my possession.)

It wasn’t so much a formal pledge I had taken against smartphones; I just knew it wasn’t for me. I had zero interest. It had no allure. And, I can’t stand the artificial screen light and unceasing pop-ups — the constant bursts of interruptions inhibiting one’s train of thought and just generally annoying.

People in my orbit knew that they couldn’t expect an instant reply from me, because I didn’t have a smartphone. They knew we’d either connect on the phone or when I had a chance to check my email on my computer.

Although we are contemporaries, sometimes I felt and feel a generational gap with my friends. I honestly don’t get what’s so great about the smartphone.

Other than the camera, that is. I confess that is a fabulous feature, a wonderful two-in-one feature that will make capturing some moments that much easier. I will no longer need to carry a cumbersome camera.

Bottom line, though, I’m an old fashioned face-to-face kind of person. Often when I meet with friends and they’re constantly checking their phones I find it rude. Of course I keep my lips pursed because I understand this is normative contemporary behavior. I guess I am the non-normative one.

That said, you’d think I’d be thrilled with my purchase. It is a smartphone after all. I can text, talk, browse the internet, all with ease.

A couple of friends checked in with comments such as, how are you doing with the phone? Isn’t it great? So exciting — are you loving it?

But that is not my state of mind at all.

For starters, I have constant circles of faces floating on my phone. Whether I want to see them or not, I now have a visual of anyone who randomly decided to leave me a FB message. I don’t get to decide how or when I want to see them, or whether I’d like to see them at all. They are right there, at my bedside, in my kitchen, at the dining table. Ugh! Even though it’s just a flat screen pic and not an actual person, I feel like my privacy has been invaded! I better learn how to get rid of that feature pronto.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy being social and hospitable. I live in an apartment building where people come and go from my apartment all the time. But there was just something about that that creeped me out.

Then, there are the videos. Every time I try to scroll through Facebook (yup, was late to the party on that, too), a blast of noise is emitted from each video as it starts up, to be halted only by me bypassing it.

The different colored graphics — raindrops in green or blue, I guess each one stands for something else, and who can remember the others.

My real problem? I seem to not hang up on phone calls when I thought I did. An automated voice just keeps on talking, asking me what I want to do, hang up or press this or stay with the call or am I really done yet??? As my  frustration and laughter both rise in equal measure, I frantically try and press this or that button.

For now, I figured out a convoluted way to end the call, definitely not the classic way to do it.

The worst was me joining whatsapp for about 13 seconds. The moment I saw the list of names of people in my social network and understood what it was and how it worked, I panicked, removing myself not a moment too soon.

Phew. I dodged that one, I thought to myself.

Which is ironic, because the true impetus for my getting the smartphone was so I could be in better contact with my youngest brother, who, together with my sister-in-law and new baby, moved to Israel. Everyone kept saying, you need to get whatsapp, that way you can easily keep in touch, and see pictures of your new adorable nephew.

So much for that. I better just book an El Al flight to Israel.

And be grateful for face-to-face Shabbat dinner — my one-day pause where it’s legit to unplug and enjoy the luxury of being a Luddite.

Let’s see how long I last on this smartphone.

Make no mistake, I have kept my flip phone, nice and secure, as backup.

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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