Monday, December 14, 2015

Phone Envy

At the tail end of my freshman year of college, I finally made the switch from an old slider phone with a tiny qwerty keyboard to the iPhone 4.  For a while, I was ecstatic,  My phone could now hold all of my music, send and receive pictures that were larger than thumbnails, and gave me access to the internet in all of its glory.  I enjoyed the luxuries of my phone for about 8 months until one day I dropped it and shattered the screen, rendering it almost useless.  The phone still worked but the broken glass was sharp and I was desperate for a replacement.  So I found myself in the valley of the shadow of phone-death, looking for a replacement smartphone for less than 200 dollars.  Eventually I found a fellow student who was selling a used iPhone 4 so I jumped on the opportunity to buy it.
    This phone suited me well until I was ready for my next upgrade at which point I bought the HTC One M7.  I loved this phone to death.  It had front facing stereo speakers and it was fast as hell compared to the old pre-siri-iPhone I was using.  But one day, more than a year before my next upgrade, I somehow managed to drop my phone in the toilet, so that was the end of that phone.  I managed to borrow a phone from a friend for a while but that one was pretty slow and aggravating and eventually it just died on its own.  At which point I was forced to return to the at this point 4 year old iPhone 4.  The only problem is that apps and mobile computing have advanced so far that the iPhone 4 is incapable of running most apps at their full potential and most things take so long to load that there's almost no point in running them on my phone.
    Now i'm not complaining about having a smartphone, It's still a better phone than I started out with as a kid, and most of the features I am missing out on are luxuries, not necessities, but it seems obvious to me now that the Fear of Missing Out, rather than just being a side effect of our fast paced consumerist culture, is a marketing strategy used by phone companies and others to scare consumers into buying the newest versions of products.  I don't need a better phone but when I see people using their phones to play interesting games and browse Reddit, I can't help but get jealous that they've got a nicer phone than I do. 
    At this point I'm used to walking to class in silence, headphones in, because my music app loads so slowly that music doesn't start playing before i make it to my destination, and I can't say that my life has been ruined by a slow phone, that would be far too dramatic, but I can say that being priced out of a nice phone does cause a bit of social anxiety.  I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I'm jealous of people's smartphones; it seems a bit childish. The worst part of it though is I can tell that's what Verizon wants me to feel, they don't want anyone using the iPhone 4 anymore because it's not making them much money.  They want me to think that an iPhone 6S Plus is what will make me happy, but I have a feeling there might be a way to be happy with less than an iPhone 4, it's just hard to think like that in the jungle of contemporary advertising, especially around the Holidays.
   In the end, I still have a bit of Phone Envy, but I'm more envious of a much smaller subset of Phone users.  I wish I could be more like the people who still use flip phones and don't find themselves concerned about replacing it with something fancy.  It's important to aspire to be rational and smart, and the smartest phone users aren't the ones with smartphones, they're the ones who aren't vulnerable to the advertisements and who still just use their phones to make calls and send the occasional text.  In the end who care's if you can snaps, or check twitter every 5 minutes as long as you have a phone and you can use it to meet up with people in real life.

More and more smartphones are released every year but they are becoming more and more intrusive into our daily routines.  Maybe we need fewer Smartphones and more smart people.


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