There are a lot of things I plan to do in the coming year- run a half-marathon, take a vacation, attend my first friend wedding (Jon and Steph’s), attend my cousin Ryan’s wedding, lose weight, donate more platelets, date more, cook more, do more of the writing that I’ve neglected, try some new restaurants. But before the new year even started, I knocked one thing off my list: I got rid of my dinosaur phone.
I’d had my old phone since my 22nd birthday- the day before, my old flip phone had inexplicably snapped at the hinges when I’d just ended a call. I replaced it with another flip phone that had basically no features- it could call and text, and that’s it. I’m kind of amazed it lasted me four and a half years, and I probably would have gotten more use out of it if I hadn’t decided to get to join the modern age and get…a phone with a camera and a QWERTY keypad.
No, I opted not to get a smartphone. Aside from the facts that they’re expensive, don’t hold enough mp3s to justify getting one when I just got a new iPod, and would probably cause me to spend my entire day on the Internet, I have another reason for not wanting an iPod, Droid, Blackberry, or Nexus One, and that reason is…Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In its infinite wisdom, my Jesuit university required us to take a core curriculum that included English, history, math, science, social sciences, foreign languages, cultural diversity, and…philosophy and theology. To fulfill those last two, I took an awesome year-long class called Perspectives with the amazing Professor Kerry Cronin. It was a class that examined the question, “What is the best way to live?” from the perspective of different philosophers, theologians, and the Bible. And while philosophy wasn’t something I’d previously thought I’d have any interest in (I remember in college, when a guy told someone he was majoring in philosophy, she responded, “So you can sit on your ass and think all day?”), Perspectives turned out to be one of the best classes I took in college.
And it turns out I can use it to illustrate a point. Rousseau believed that in a state of nature, humans possess two distinct qualities: sympathy and the desire for perfectability. The latter is what leads to the downfall of people—they don’t just want to preserve themselves, but to preserve themselves as well as possible, and thus develop tools to help themselves do so. They then become dependent on those tools rather than on their innate ability for self-preservation. And this is what makes people weak.
On the off chance that you are still with me, this is what smartphones make me think of. I just imagine people becoming dependent on them and unable to trust themselves to do things the way they used to do. I bet that already, somewhere, someone has counted on the Internet being available on a smartphone to give them information, only to find that it didn’t get reception or wouldn’t work as planned. What’s going to happen when people get so used to looking up information on their cell phones that they don’t know how to do it any other way?
Okay, so maybe I didn’t have to reference a philosopher to say so. But that’s my main point. I just see a smartphone as something that would become a security blanket, and it makes me uncomfortable. Right now I’ll stick with a phone that was all the rage…about six years ago.