The Cell Phone Circus

layout by Maria Zannini

Last week my cell phone was thick in the throes of death. The screen blacked out or started displaying old-school black lines jogging across the screen. Sometimes it wouldn’t even turn on at all.

To me a phone is a phone, even when it’s a smart phone, but it’s made me realize how much I depend on it now.

For instance, years ago, I used to have a Rolodex (remember those) with information on all my contacts. Today, they’re all on the phone. What happens if I lose my phone? All those contacts are G-O-N-E.

I keep addresses and phone numbers for my friends and family on my home computer, but not my business contacts. Plus, I still don’t have them on paper, so if the computer blows, there go my personal contacts too.

The only thing I do keep on paper and never on my phone or computer are my passwords. I’m very paranoid about computer security. This is why I won’t use a “master” password, nor will I ever save passwords in a digital file.

My phone takes photos. Many of the photos I use on my blog are taken from my phone. I’ve gotten into a good habit of emailing myself photos I plan to use for a future blog post, but lots of pictures of animals or my garden linger on my phone waiting for me to transfer them.

I had gotten anxious knowing now that I might lose them forever, but the young woman at the phone store was able to store them on the “cloud” so I could pull them back. The cloud also allowed me to see them on my home computer.

I don’t trust the cloud. I just don’t. Photos are not a deal breaker, but what if the cloud also saves personal documents and tax information, and someone somehow managed to pull that information from the cloud? Didn’t that happen to some celebrity a few years back where all her naked photos showed up on the net?

Fortunately for the world, there are no naked photos of me on the cloud. πŸ˜€

My day at the cell phone store brought other concerns. The young woman who helped me was very nice and genuinely helpful, but I couldn’t help but notice how blasΓ© she was about the cost of everything.

Oh, you’ll need insurance, and a car charger, and a cover, and a screen protector. Oh, and let’s not forget the $30 to upgrade your old phone to this one. But don’t worry, you can just pay a monthly note.

It was like no big deal. Meanwhile my eyes were getting bigger and bigger.

I got a better phone. More memory, better camera, and a slightly larger screen. She started touting all the extras this phone had, but I wasn’t interested. I use my phone for pictures, for the internet, the GPS map, and for texting Greg whenever we lose each other in a store. She looked disappointed that I wasn’t impressed with the apps.

I did get the eye-roll because my phone was over five years old. I was more upset it didn’t last longer. I’ve had three phones since cell phones came out and all three stayed with me until they died. I’m not into the latest this or that. As long as it carries out my basic needs, I’m content. Basically, it’s a handheld computer. I like that.

The internet is important because Greg and I both use it a lot when we’re not at home base–or when our power goes out when we are at home.

In the end, she was able to save my photos and my contacts, but neither one of us could get my email accounts to set up. My gmail account went through because, well, Google is omnipotent, but my Outlook email accounts could not. I guess it’s not terrible. The only time it would be inconvenient is if I were away from home for more than a couple of days.

What a racket the cell phone industry is though. I should’ve invested in stock.

I saw a child the other day with a smart phone. I don’t think she could’ve been more than five or six. My first question is, why does a child that young need a smart phone? A computer, yes. I can see the benefit in that, but not a phone. It’s not like she’ll ever be in a place without adult supervision.

As a dinosaur who remembers the days when our parents didn’t know what we were up to for an entire day, or when I wouldn’t be able to talk to my husband until he got home from his 12 hour shift, the idea of being in that much constant contact is strictly a 21st century phenomena.

Maybe not having my email accounts on my phone is a good thing. To this day, I refuse to add Facebook Messenger to my phone. Facebook is too handsy with our information. I sure as heck don’t want them getting my phone information too.

Do you have a smart phone? What kind do you like? What’s the most important feature for you?

And out of curiosity…what do you think is the right age to give a child a phone?

PS. If you do get a new cell phone, do yourself a favor and look for the car charger, cover, and screen protector on Amazon. I guarantee you it’ll be cheaper than the phone store.

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18 Comments

  1. I like having a smart phone, but I’m paying better attention now to how often – and why – I’m picking it up. If it’s for an actual reason AND I’m doing it on purpose, fine. If it’s just because it’s there, or out of habit, or I’m “bored” then that’s not okay with me.

  2. Angela Brown

    Yes, the cell phone industry is a racket. I know first hand as a former employee.

    I’m also a Luddite compared to some of my former co-workers who would get the latest and greatest every year while I would trade out about every 3 years.

    And you are absolutely correct to go to Amazon for your accessories. Definitely find a greater variety, less expensive, and may even find some things on Etsy that can be customized for your device.

    I am no longer on Facebook as of about a week ago. I just need to untether a bit more. And I have no idea why a kid that young should have a smartphone. Just…no.

    • Angela: If the company paid for the phones, I could see how it could benefit them. There’s no point in having a salesperson who doesn’t understand how the newest phones work–but then I doubt any company is that far thinking. πŸ™‚

      re: Facebook
      I can’t blame you. I’ve resorted to asking FB to stop showing me posts from certain people because they’re just too toxic. I’m there to catch up with friends, not preached to.

  3. We are so much a like and I can completely agree on so many levels. Our last phone purchase was such a hassle. That was almost 4 years ago and I dread having to upgrade.
    It’s those looks and attitude that really drive me nuts.

    Honestly our last car purchase was a faster process than getting our phones in order. It’s nothing more than ridiculous and I use my phone for very little as well.

    Talking, text, photos, google maps, and Instagram that’s it. I’d rather be a dinosaur than get caught up in the latest and greatest. I like to think this is because I have a life and know there is so much more to it than the phone I carry. I’m lucky if I can even find it most of the time.

    Perspective is everything, hang in there and just learn to smile and wave. It helps feed our way through it all.

    My kids never had phones until they were 16 and that was when we had track phones, pay as you go. We set them up, paid for the first 100 minutes and they were responsible for the rest. Parents don’t realize the harm and probably never will. It’s a matter of lack of education which is interesting when education is always being pushed.

    • Carole: You are not kidding that getting a phone is more hassle than getting a car. I was just thinking of that myself!

      It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if those young people talk about us in the back. I told Greg that they probably think we’re total idiots for not understanding how some apps work. To which, he replied, but how many of them can grow food, fix the plumbing, or even change a tire on their car?

      Perspective is right.

  4. My family forced me to get a dumb disposable phone that only makes phone calls, in case I break down on the road (and as it happens that came in handy earlier this year.) It texts, too, but I refuse to learn how to text (I write for a living. When someone pays me five cents a word to text them, then I’ll learn, ha). Costs me $100 a year, which seems like a lot to me, but jaws drop when I say that. I’ve never used all the minutes that come with the airtime, so I think I have like twenty thousand now. I hate the darn thing.

    I wouldn’t let the kids get cell phones until they started driving, but that was in the early days when most kids didn’t have them. I still think phones should be held back until kids are behind the wheel, but now I think it would be very tough to do that. I’ve also seen little kids with them. It’s awful.

    • Lynn: I don’t think we’ve ever come close to using up our data plan and that’s with both of us using it.

      Phones are essential, especially for older people, people who live alone, or anyone with a disability. In the old days it was a lot harder to get help, so I don’t blame your family in the least for making you get a phone. πŸ™‚

      I’ve been stranded a few times, miles from the nearest phone. The first few times I was young and spry and didn’t mind the walk, but now…I’d hate to be without a phone if that happens again.

  5. Jenny Schwartz

    I know cellphones are convenient, but I miss rotary dial landlines and the days when people didn’t expect you to be contactable 24/7. Plus, you are so right, Maria – the expense! Ugh.

    • Jenny:
      re: 24/7
      Exactly. My mother is actually the worst offender when it comes to cell phones. She is so used to my brothers and sisters calling her back immediately, she goes crazy when I don’t answer within the hour.

      Sometimes I’m outdoors doing something where cell phones could be in danger. Other times I’m home, but I usually can’t get a signal in the house so I miss her call then too. Either way, she imagines I’m dying in a ditch somewhere. She’s gone so far as to call Greg and even some of my friends when I didn’t return her call after a few hours.

      I tell her that even if I was in trouble there’s probably nothing she could do so she might as well wait for the coroner’s report. She didn’t find that funny. πŸ˜€

  6. Betty

    Son got his cell phone when he was in 7th grade, so I’m thinking middle school is a good time for them to have one at the earliest. Otherwise its just another thing to keep track of for younger kids.

    Son got a new cell phone back in April and was complaining recently that the speaker wasn’t working; he couldn’t hear when people were calling him unless he was hooked up to his blue tooth in his car. He didn’t want to file an insurance claim to pay the deductible but I told him he basically needed to because he needed a reliable phone that he didn’t go into his car to talk to someone when they called. Long story short, since it was barely 3 months old, it was still covered under warranty so he’s getting a new phone sent to him without having to pay the deductible. The tech he talked to told him to get the accessories through Amazon since it was cheaper and indeed it was.

    betty

  7. I’m addicted to my phone, and not in a good way. I know I spend way too much time surfing and checking various social media sites. On the other hand, it’s pretty much my only point of contact with my kids/grandkids – and that’s via text or some other app. The grandkids especially never use their phones to actually call someone. The ability to always be in touch (or to find someone in a store) is nice but I also remember those days when it just didn’t exist and that was fine. But I will say I love always having a camera in my pocket.

    As far as how old?… I’d say middle school (jr. high) age, when they’re in activities and need to be able to call Mom and Dad (“practice got cancelled, can you come get me?”) I know schools pretty much expect students to have cell phones by then. Elementary schools age…I don’t see why they’d need one.

    • Linda: I think the majority of time I’ve spent on my phone was to use GPS. I google a lot of stuff too.

      You remind me of my mom. For such an old lady she’s really good at keeping up with social media and texting. It’s kind of funny that she knows the vernacular. She’s better at it than me.

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