My kids complain because I seldom turn on my smartphone.
Not true. I turn it on whenever I’m expecting a call. But they don’t get that. Apparently, they’re on one side of a generational divide, and I’m on the other.
I’ve explained to the kids (all in their 50s) that I spend most of every day sitting at my computer with the landline phone 12 inches away. It’s always on, so why would I need to turn on the cell as well? If they want to talk to me on the cell (why would they?), they can always call me on the landline and ask me to turn it on.
They insist that a smartphone will do all kinds of useful things. I agree that its ability to turn into a flashlight is useful, and if I ever need a flashlight (besides the three regular ones I’ve squirreled away), I’ll figure out how to turn on the one that’s in my cell.
I agree that the GPS in the smartphone is useful, but I seldom drive unfamiliar roads these days. When I do, I prefer to go online to Mapquest or Google Maps before the trip. They show me where I’m going in a way I can visualize. I get the whole picture on my desktop computer and print out the driving instructions.
I’m more comfortable with that than with listening while some woman’s recorded voice dictates, turn by turn, what I’m supposed to do. I have no idea whether she’s right or not. I’ve been a passenger in cars when the onboard GPS provided wrong directions. And repeated them when asked to try again. We’d have done better with a fold-out map and a compass.
I’m not totally a Luddite (that’s someone who’s opposed to technology). I don’t reject all digital technology out of hand. My computer feels like an extension of my body. I can type at the speed of thought, or at least at the speed of my own thoughts. I’m in and out of my email account dozens of times a day. I FaceTime and Skype. I’ve Zoomed. And when my computer crashes, I feel as if half of my brain has been disconnected. I’m not okay until both the computer and the brain are up and running again.
Also, when I’m outside my apartment, I like to be phone free. It seems to me that, if you let it, a smartphone can dominate your life. I don’t want that. And if everything personal that you need to know is in your phone and it stops working, where does that leave you?
Anyway, it’s all relative. I have friends who are even less evolved technically than I am, and they sometimes frustrate me because they don’t own a computer and don’t have email. They’re only reachable by landline, and that’s inconvenient for me. If they’re not home, I have to leave a message or call back. Email is easier.
So to some extent I understand when a member of my family insists it’s inconvenient for her that I don’t leave my smartphone turned on and carry it everywhere with me. And I get it when my teenage grandchildren roll their eyes because I’m reluctant to text. But when I try to do that, I keep fat-fingering letters and numbers. With practice, I suppose I’d get better at it, but when you’re used to typing as fast as you can think, texting seems like a terribly cumbersome, time-wasting process.
It strikes me as ironic that my grandkids have email accounts but use them so rarely that if I want to send them something, I have to call them first on their smartphones and tell them to check their email.
That’s the reverse of what they have to do with me: call me on my landline or email me to warn me that they’re about to call on my cell.
We live in different worlds.
Flora Davis has written scores of magazine articles and is the author of five nonfiction books, including the award-winning Moving the Mountain: The Women’s Movement in America Since 1960 (1991, 1999). She currently lives in a retirement community and continues to work as a writer.