I’d like to think I’m not the type who has to be forced into embracing 21st century technology, but the facts could be interpreted to say otherwise.
My old cellphone had served me well for several years, and I had no intention of upgrading to a new model.
It’s true you couldn’t access the Internet with it to check Facebook or read your email or find out the weather forecast, but you could send text messages with a little effort. Mostly I used it to make calls and to get calls. Isn’t that why you carry a cellphone?
Well, evidently not, based on the gratuitous advice I was getting from family and friends. One of them said my phone was the kind drug dealers used, really basic and untraceable. Another, whose opinion I’m required to at least consider, spoke to me in a grave tone one day. “You need a phone with a keyboard so you don’t have to struggle to send text messages.” It felt like she was talking to someone with missing digits.
She thought I struggled because of the way I answered her text messages to me. She would send me a long message, and I would answer, “OK.” She would text me about some extraordinary thing that had happened and I would text back, “Wow.”
So because I chose to communicate economically, she assumed I was texting-challenged. (It did take me forever to figure out how to punctuate my text messages, though I probably didn’t need to worry. Most of the text messages I receive don’t have any punctuation or capital letters or anything else that resembles convention.)
The topic of my antiquated phone would pop up from time to time, and I’d agree that yes, I should upgrade my phone one of these days, but it’s really not a priority.
As it turned out, it was a priority for her and, just the other day, I found myself the owner of a brand new cellphone, one of those sleek models that allow you to do anything on it that you can do on your laptop or desktop computer. (You can even make phone calls on it,)
It has a touch screen that allows me to scroll to different pages with a flick of my finger or expand the size of the type I’m reading by using two fingers. I can read email, check Facebook, and most important, I can send text messages using the little keyboard that slides out of the phone’s midsection.
My new phone is a Droid, which is short for “android,” and there’s a little green personification of him stationed on the screen to give me advice. (I don’t really know if it’s a “him” because he’s gender-neutral). One of the ring tones I can select is the little droid saying “D-R-O-I-D” in a voice that sounds like Darth Vader. It’s a little scary to me but some people with the same phone seem to like it. I think it’s a status thing.
Soon after getting the phone, I was in Rotterdam Square mall and discovered a related phenomenon. There are places there that sell nothing but cellphone covers. I sorted through dozens of them to find just the right cover — black with gray pinstripes. My phone looks like it’s wearing a little business suit.
When we went to a dinner party with close friends the other evening, I mentioned that I’d gotten a new phone, and it was greeted with hostility by a close pal whom I’ll call Frank. It was as though I’d gone over to the dark side.
Frank rails against these cellphones with all their bells and whistles because he thinks they encourage people to waste time and generally ignore real social intercourse in favor of the kind of impersonal and unreal connections we make on the Internet. He becomes especially unhappy if he notices someone playing with his or her cellphone at a social event, like this dinner party.
He warned me darkly of the danger of becoming addicted and cautioned me not to allow myself to be seduced.
He doesn’t have to worry. I’d tell you why, too, but I just received two urgent text messages that I have to answer and I got an email alert that someone just posted on my Facebook page.
Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him by email to email@example.com.