About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Dumbing Down My Cell Phone
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Like clockwork, as soon as the newest smartphone is announced we’re all told how incomplete our lives are without it. I, however, grew up being taught the ideology that you don’t buy something new unless the old thing is broken, so I’ve had a grand total of three cell phones in 14 years. The concept of “upgrading” doesn’t exist in my world.

Currently I have a Samsung Rant (I’ll continue once your laughter subsides). Five weeks ago Sprint decided it no longer made sense for them to keep their email app running on the Rant. Because of this decision I would no longer be able to access my email on my phone. I think the knee jerk reaction they were hoping for was that it would influence those of us with old phones to buy new phones, and, along with them, new, more expensive, plans. Instead, I’ve had a fantastically eye opening five weeks that have taught me a lot about necessity, habit, and communication.

The first few days I didn’t have email on my phone I experienced some weird moments. I normally deleted junk mail while exiting the gym, while on the train to and from the city, and during a commercial breaks while watching TV. I found myself reaching for the phone while on the sofa a number of times, but got over that habit fairly quickly. Actually, I got over it quicker than I imagined. I thought it would take at least a week. It took about two days.

I had a few shows to cover in the city my first week with my now email-less cell phone, and what I found was, without the ability to constantly check on what else was going on, I spoke with, and connected with, more people in real life. Now, I was never one of those people playing games, or looking at all their pictures, on their phone at the bar, but in the past I had definitely been guilty of eagerly seeing if someone had responded to the tweet I just posted (I text to tweet). Without that option, I walked up to the prettiest girl in the bar, and had a great conversation with her. It turned out she had booked the night at the venue. We exchanged info, and plan on working together.

It sucks when there’s no one right in front of you to talk to, right?

My first real concern regarding not having email on my phone happened when I had a midday meeting in the city. I was going to be away from my computer for seven hours, almost all of them work hours. I told the people I was meeting that I would be unreachable via email, and to call, or text, me if the schedule were to change. No message was necessary, as everything was on time. After all was said and done, when I arrived home I saw I had over 60 emails waiting for me. They took me a grand total of 15 minutes to get through. I also began to realize the bulk of my emails during a regular work day are email conversations. Without those conversations going on, the email load drops fairly dramatically.

The best moment of all came on the last day of February, when I was in the city for a show, and a huge dinner for multiple family members’ birthdays. I didn’t realize it until after the fact, but I got through the entire dinner without even thinking about my phone, or my email. My entire attention was on whoever I was having a conversation with. There was no voice in my head saying, “You could be checking on something else right now.” It was an incredibly freeing feeling, and I know I was connecting with people more effectively.

Loving the way the past month had gone, I called up Sprint, not to discuss purchasing a new phone, but to find out how I could lower my bill, as I clearly wouldn’t be using my phone as much. Already on a non-smartphone plan, they found a way to knock another $20 a month off of my bill. So in addition to enjoying life more, I’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of an extra $240 a year to enjoy life with (or pay bills with, but I really do like having electricity, so that counts as enjoying life).

As soon as Blackberry phones, and smartphones, were introduced we fell into the false notion that we needed to be tethered to our email all the time. That’s never been true. Nobody needs to be able to access their email all the time, and I find it funny that the people who truly need it the least are often the ones who ardently cling to the idea that they need it the most. It’s a fallacy based on our constant desire to feel important, and the paranoia of potentially missing out on something.

Wait, you can eat new phones?
Maybe I am missing out on something! Get me a cookies and cream!

Using myself as an example, not only has my workload gone unchanged during this time, I booked a gigantic interview with Neon Trees, and had a major network contact me about possibly working with them. In other words, even as a music journalist who writes for multiple outlets, my work life was unaffected by the change. In fact, if you want to go back to the first night of shows in the city, I actually GAINED a contact by virtue of not having email on my phone.

I’m not saying I’m throwing my phone away. Heck, I’m a texting machine (sorry, J-Zone). I’m just saying that maybe the gadgets we think are making our lives easier are actually causing us to disconnect from the world more than they’re helping us connect with anything truly important.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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