Disconnect?

About one year ago I discontinued my monthly cell phone contract with AT&T. I now have a Tracfone that costs  $30 per month in prepaid minutes (significantly less than my former contract). I can access the internet from my prepaid phone, but I don’t, because it is a small flip phone and the screen is too small to be useful for browsing the web. Everyone I know owns a smart phone with a touch screen, cool apps, and a large enough display to make internet use worth while. This obvious trend is verified by chapter 8 in Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics. Within this chapter is a brief section titled: Mobile Me that indicates that people are becoming more and more dependent on their mobile devices at an alarmingly fast rate.

Having used my basic and inexpensive flip phone for the past year, I have found that neither my social life nor my professional life changed much. My friends sometimes give me a hard time because of my “old” technology, but ultimately I am not less happy as a result of having a basic phone. However, I am saving a lot of money every month. One aspect of new mobile devices that I am not comfortable with is the GPS tracking Qualman describes: “This works on the GPS in the phone to locate your friends and tell you exactly where they are,” (216). I have absolutely no desire for anyone to be able to track me. If I want someone to know where I am, I will tell that person where I am going, and I expect that person to trust me. I can see how this type of technology may be helpful in certain emergency situations; however, I would rather retain my privacy.

Sometimes I feel that I may be too anti-technology (despite the fact that I use what technology is necessary for my academic and career success). At the same time, I feel that we, as a society, need to be cautious of a citizenry that is completely dependent on technology. For instance, Qualman mentions that fewer real-time interviews are being conducted by journalists because of technology (215-216). The result of this trend may lead to lost opportunities to truly get at the heart of an important news story. Part of the art of journalism is being able to ask on the spot questions based on interviewee responses and body language—to find out the whole story. Imagine how happy politicians would be if they never had to answer a real-time face to face question.

Maybe Henry David Thoreau had it right in his expirement and book Walden. Such an expirement would be  more drastic, and perhaps more meaningful given today’s real vs. virtual worlds.

Posted on November 4, 2012, in mobile, Social Media, Society. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I was also a little surprised by Qualman’s claim that most interviews are just an exchange of emails. How lazy is that? If that’s the case then I guess journalism truly is dead. The only real investigative journalism we get is from TMZ following celebrities around from club to club.

    Qualman pointed out the limitations of this approach as well when he says that, ” . . . the reporter may miss out on some good information the the interviewee may divulge” (p. 216). Unless the interview is a profile for Teen Beat, isn’t it the job of a journalist to get past the front that the subject of the interview puts up to uncover something deeper? Shouldn’t we expect more?

    If we replace real journalism with bloggers, isn’t this what we are sacrificing?

  2. I too have a dumb phone! I frequently toy with the idea of an iPhone, but cannot convince myself that the paying for the data plan nor the constant connectivity will really be something I enjoy in the long term. After our reading of “Alone Together” I am even more convinced that it is something I just don’t really need or want at this point. But, then again, if we could just post discussions to D2L though a mobile interface maybe then I would have a legitimate reason…

  3. I am also one who doesn’t own a smartphone. Maybe even worse, my husband and I just own ONE phone together. Sometimes, it is really annoying… and like Jodee I have to admit I am also toying with the thought of getting one. Yesterday, I happen to watch a documentary on Steve Jobs and how his visions changed forever the way we communicate. A good point was made there about the branding strategies of Apple. It is just so cool to own any of those Apple products and people can’t wait what the next new gadget will have in store. One of his main accomplishments lies in the interface of these products. The operating system and the apps are fun and easy to use. So often I wonder, how many people actually need all these devices or just use it like a luxury item. I completely share the reasoning for not getting one with Jodee and wonder if I could be convinced if the data plan prices would drop down to the ones of a normal minute plan. So I guess what I want to say is if owning an iPhone is a status symbol or a practical tool.

  4. I’m glad you all are revealing your preferences for “dumb” phones because, as someone whose research speciality is social media, I get a lot of people assuming that all my students in classes like this are gung-ho about technology. I guess it varies from semester to semester, but the majority of my freshman and undergrads actually have limited experience with social media beyond Facebook. You all have caught onto blogging quite well, but I’m glad we aren’t also using wikis, Twitter, diigo, or tumblr. That’s too many emerging media for one semester, especially one that is completely distance ed!

  5. I also have a fairly basic cell phone. We picked up cell phones a couple summers ago when my mom was sick with cancer and texting from the hospital seemed a lot better way to communicate than using a public phone in a waiting room.

    Since my 17-year-old started working, he bought himself an iPhone and pays for the data plan and other increases to our bill. Good for him. Once in a while we even mooch off him by asking him to map out a route or search for coffee shops or motels in a new town. He is so attached to that phone, though, that it’s a little frightening.

    As for other Apple mobile devices, I love my wifi-enabled iPad. For me, it’s not just a trendy toy; it is a legitimate tool. When our desktop computer crashed, we were left with one laptop for our family of four. There were way too many conflicts. My wife and I each bought iPads for a total price close to what we would have paid for one new computer. That was a great decision. These iPads really are mini computers, and we have no more technology conflicts.

    My brother-in-law, a computer systems analyst and software engineer says he’s probably purchased his last computer. The majority of what he needs to do he can take care of with his iPhone.

    Mobile technology is truly amazing. And if I want to get away from it, all I have to do is drive to the UP.

  6. I have used the iPad as a teaching tool, and found it to be very useful. I have been considering buying one for myself, but I still have a good laptop. Perhaps when my computer quits working, I will look seriously at getting an ipad.

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