Marolt: They won the war while we Tweeted
I have to admit I think it’s cool that my archrival at the Aspen Daily News, Lo Semple, has declared war on smartphones, or more accurately, on using technology to waste time more efficiently. He’s cut off his cell service, abandoned Facebook, and dusted off the big, plastic Panasonic tethered from the outlet on his kitchen counter. He hasn’t given up on email; that’s a business tool and junk mail receptacle so uncool that nobody would use it unless they had to. It has become so relatively slow that it actually requires too much patience and deliberate planning to just fool around with.
I applaud Lo because he has the cajones to refrain from pressing the buttons in his war. I, on the other hand, have been waging what amounts to gorilla attacks when it is convenient. I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t Tweet. I don’t give my cellphone number out so that I can avoid doing business on it. And, I really try to embrace small bouts of boredom by conscientiously leaving my phone in my pocket. I kid you not; it has come down to concentrating on tree branches swaying in the breeze on the edge of the turf instead of the phone pressed against my thigh in my pants pocket as I wait for my daughter’s lacrosse practice to end. I find this exercise as painful during and as relaxing afterward as a good yoga session.
I don’t think of Lo’s overt and my sneak attack on handheld technology as old fogies fighting a lost cause against the inevitability of change. Although Paul Krugman is an old fogy, he is also a Nobel Prize winning economist, and he joked not long ago that the iPhone has marked a distinct demarcation in the advancement of technology – he said it is the first major “advancement” in the age of micro-processing technology that has actually caused a decrease in human productivity.
Now, the reason Krugman joked about this is because neither he nor anyone else has examined enough data to actually prove what he is saying, but this does not mean either that he is wrong or that his joke was funny. Truly, is there anybody who thinks the use of an iPhone as a business tool outweighs the value of the time they have wasted on it checking the current weather instead of looking up into the sky, getting updates on the 26th round of the NFL draft, or being pinged because J-Crew just put Capri pants on sale?
I have a friend who claims that cellphone access to the Internet makes mankind smarter. This clearly proves he is an idiot. He says everyone can now know almost everything by simply Googling it. Yes, and this is why so many people believe Barack Obama was not born in America. Give me 15 minutes and a smart phone and I can come up with evidence to support any conclusion. The proof of this is that I have done it often. The greatest danger in understanding that all knowable truth is available on the Internet, which it probably is, by the way, is forgetting that there is exponentially more nonsense there relative to the complexity of the answer sought. If anything, truth has become like the needle in a globe-size haystack.
I like being able to know where my kids are. I’m happy that I can be notified on my way home from work that we need a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. I’m glad I can call roadside assistance when my car stalls in the middle of a rainy night on a deserted country road that I am traveling over for inexplicable reasons and I am seeing visions of a woman in a glowing white gown with her thumb out mysteriously floating up ahead in the cones of my headlights. These are wonderful conveniences. The rest of smart phone ownership is like having a television in the kitchen or a CB radio in the bedroom that never gets turned off. You hardly notice them until you have a couple of minutes to kill and then they are immediately there to ensure you nix 10 from the tally of your life. Far from being a sign of being extremely busy, excessive cell phone use is now the mark of somebody extremely bored.
The thing about a war on technology is that it is hard to recruit by example because nobody raises their eyes from the tiny screen in their palm to notice the enemy is in our midst. I fear our only hope is that eventually people will start to look critically at their selfies.
Roger Marolt is determined to replace downloading apps with taking naps when he’s bored. email@example.com