Sunday, July 6, 2014

Throwbacks and Holdouts

Check out my daughter's "new" phone:

I salvaged it from the cottage when my grandma upgraded to a touch-tone phone many years ago.  My kids used to play with it when they were small, and we actually have pulled it out to use during power outages when the phone lines were fine but our cordless land-line was rendered useless.  Aden has taken to spending more time on the phone with friends lately, and as a result we can never find a receiver, so I told her we could set up the rotary phone in her bedroom to use as her own.

She's very excited about it, and actually likes the fact that it's tied to the wall and she can't lose it.

I'm always amused by those lists and clips that circulate around the internet periodically, showing all the now retro things we grew up with that people are convinced today's children have never seen before.  My kids know all those things.  They play records.  They've messed around with tape recorders.  We still watch VHS tapes for movie night.  Before it went flukey we played Pitfall 2 and Frogger on our Atari and the kids loved it.

It's not that we're opposed to new technology.  I have an iPod shuffle for listening to podcasts, I enjoy Netflix streaming, I don't like to be without my laptop for very long, the kids have an iPad they share that they got for Christmas from their aunt....  But we are holding out of on certain things.

When we were at Disney World earlier this year our biggest laugh came from when we were setting up our Fast-Pass choices at the special kiosk (in Tomorrow Land no less).  When the guy pulled up the screen displaying our time windows to remember he said, "Now just get out your smartphone and take a picture."  My kids cracked up.  I told the guy I didn't have a smartphone, and he looked confused and said they could email it to us as a text, and I told him that wasn't going to work either because I don't text.  He seemed really at a loss at that point, and I told him not to worry, that I had this cool thing called  "paper and pencil" and that worked just fine (particularly in the rain).

Quinn looked at the Disney worker and said, smiling, "We live in the past."

Now, I've told my children that if we get to a point where they feel left out to an uncomfortable degree because they are of a generation that texts, etc. and they feel they are at a social disadvantage, we aren't opposed to getting them gadgets at some point.  But they are surprisingly fine without them.  They say they like living the way we do.  They are content to use a Wii at a friend's house or only have a handful of free apps on their iPad.  Currently they don't want cell phones.

That will change.  It will have to as they wander farther out into the world without us and we need to stay in touch out of both safety and convenience.

But in the meantime we are putting it off.  I'm sure when I finally have a smartphone I will wonder how I did without like everyone else around me, but you know what?  I think that's what scares me.  I don't want to be as dependent on an optional device as others around me appear to be.  I don't like the behavior I see associated with smartphones.  I don't want to become that.

I read a lot of articles criticizing young people for how they use their phones, but from where I'm standing they are simply following the lead of their parents.  Many of the adults around me anymore cannot keep their eyes off their phones.  They act addicted.

I'm sure texting is enjoyable, but I'm stunned at how pervasive it's become to a point that when people discuss the dangers of texting and driving most of the responses I see in Facebook threads come down to, "Yeah, but it's so hard to stop."  The concept boggles my mind.  How anyone thinks they can drive safely while being distracted with a device that requires fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and conversing with someone in a different environment is insane.  How strong is the texting allure that people can't resist it even when it puts themselves and others in danger?  I don't think I want to know.

So many people seem incapable of getting through any real amount of time without checking their phones.  It's insulting to share a meal with someone who finds whatever trivia is flickering across their tiny screen more interesting than you.  It's a big deal anymore if someone makes the gesture of actually shutting off the phone to pay attention to something.  I get that smartphones are cool and have great uses, but they've invaded everything.  I find that unnerving.  It's also peculiar that people treat smartphones as indispensable when some of us do without them just fine.

But I know I am the odd holdout on this front.  If other people enjoy this behavior then that's fine.  I just don't feel up to joining them yet, and I don't have a lifestyle that demands I do.  If I traveled, or commuted any real distance from my children, or had to be cut off from a land line or a computer during business hours, then it would likely be a different story.  But as it is at the moment, I have no need of a smartphone.

I actually apologized half-jokingly to my kids not long ago for being the weird mom who doesn't have a smartphone and they told me it was fine.  Mona actually said, "We like being weird."

So that's where we are right now.  

I'm sure our texting days are coming, but in the meantime I'm kind of proud of my kids for writing actual letters to their friends and developing verbal phone skills.  I know a rotary phone doesn't exactly make us Amish, but it's enough of a throwback I find it oddly touching.  Something about my oldest baby's sweet face lighting up that she gets her own phone with a dial and handset with a curly cord just makes me happy.

(Now if only we could count on one day finding colleges for the kids with retro tuition we'd be set!)


  1. So nice to see someone still "holding out" on a smartphone, Korinthia! I don't like it when people stare their phones like zombies when they have perfectly fine-looking live people sitting right across from them. At the same time, it scares me how dependent I am beginning to be on my own smartphone!

    For instance, last weekend we went to sea world and I left my phone in the car (where I was using it to stream music for our ride). After getting into the park when I realized I hadn't got the phone with me, I almost panicked and actually considered making the long hike back to the car to pick up my phone. After the initial panic attack passed, I did just fine for the whole day and didn't really miss it much at all. But when I got back to the car, I totally ignored my family for several minutes while I "caught up" (on what? a bunch of mails, texts and FB updates that I don't even remember anymore?). There used to be a time when my sister would tease me that my phone might be wireless, but it's not mobile since I was so detached from it and never bother to carry it around with me. And to think of how compulsively attached I've become to it now!

    Holdout for as long as you can. If you get it, it gets you!

    P.S.: If you ever find that college with the retro tuition, do let us know too :)

    1. I find even with my laptop there are moments where I'm essentially brushing off my kids or husband as I'm compelled to check Facebook or something equally unimportant, and I hate that. It's very "the last act of Our Town" where getting to observe her old life from beyond the grave the protagonist is frustrated that no one is really looking at each other, and I feel I should know better. I worry a smartphone will suck me away from what's really important even more often.

  2. Oh how timely this post is since the 14 year olds just got phones yesterday as their (very late) graduation presents. Going to high school in the fall, we felt they needed them to help get a hold of us for pickups after practice etc and frankly they were the only kids we knew their age who didn't have phones. Most 12 year olds on Damon's soccer team have phones!! We got them "smart" phones without a data plan so they can use them as smart phones hooked up to our wifi but only have text and phone outside of our house. We have strict rules about no instagram and snapchat, but they have already downloaded loads of free apps and are having a blast as I type this playing words with friends against each other. I'm glad you are holding out. My husband barely uses his phone and maybe texts once a week, while I text with my sisters, friends and Emma about a million times a day.It's going to be interesting to see how they take to these new phones. For now, it's all fun and not a big deal. Love the rotary phone!!

    1. See, I'm so out of touch I don't even know what a Data Plan is. I'm just impressed with myself when my stupid flip phone is charged. Actually, I'm always stunned when I find out how much people pay to use their cell phones. I think we pay $15 a month for both phones? Something like that. I'd almost wonder if I'd feel compelled to use a smartphone more just to justify the cost of it each month.

  3. I wrote out a whole post this weekend on how technology is changing our brains but have not posted it yet because I need to at least attempt to proofread it, probably. Anyway. I'm typing this comment from my smartphone on my lunch break at work. But... I have found in my 4ish months of smartphone usage that if you set real limits for yourself, it can be just like a regular cell phone with a few useful tools. Setting the limits is hard. I'm better at it than my husband. ��. I say hold out as long as you can!!

    Love the rotary phone!

    1. So this comment is an excellent example of why commenting / texting / nonverbal communication with a smartphone is SORT OF RIDICULOUS. Because each time, I think I've typed out a decent comment and instead when I read it later it's all convoluted because it took so long to type out, I thought I said more than I really did, or something like that. HA.

      I like what Peg said about not having a data plan. That's pretty much what I've done (for myself) to prevent / limit addiction (and expense)- we actually do have some data, but it's very minimal and it's turned off for most of the apps. I think this has gone a long way to prevent my own personal phone addiction from developing and I think it's a genius option for teenagers.

    2. I loved your technology post. I've been thinking about the digit grouping information all week and find it fascinating.

      I'm kind of intrigued by the fact that all the comments I've gotten from people who like and enjoy their smartphones are encouraging me to hold out rather than jump on the bandwagon.

    3. I would rarely encourage anyone to jump on any bandwagon... But especially with phones I'm in favor of holding out.

      You know, so the machines don't get too much power and all. ��

      But really just because it's darned expensive, especially if your current plan is 15$ a month. Our data plan is only 10$/month more than our other cell phone plan, but it was waaaaay more than that! We used the flip phones a lot though, so it was worth it.
      Ps I typed this from my phone so if it doesn't make sense, that's why. ��

  4. I enjoy life without a smartphone. I do text, but the amount is limited compared to most my age who apparently don't know how to speak anymore. Unlimited texting would cost me $10 extra a month. Plus the extra taxes. That's a lot. A smart phone would probably triple my phone bill. But it's not even that I can't afford it I just don't want to afford it. The 9-year-old, on the other hand, already wants everything. Right now it''so easy to say he's too young to need a cell phone. Not sure when that will change.

    1. Some of the products are designed so well they do kind of call to you. I remember when I first held an iPod (a waterproof one that I bought to use while swimming laps) and I was amazed at how much I just wanted to hold it. It was small, but with enough weight to feel extra real somehow, and I wanted to keep touching it. I think when most people hold a smartphone they want to keep holding the smartphone, and kids it particular feel that allure because they are such tactile beings.

  5. I LOVE it! I remember when I got a phone of my very own installed in my bedroom. Oh yeah, I was IT! :oP

    I also remember the old rotary phone. There was something so satisfying about the snick of pulling the number around and then the dt-dt-dt of it clicking back. Ahhhh.

    I always admire families and their differences from each other and they way they make it work.

    The phone situation--I think Peg is onto something with the no data plan...Me, I'm a HUGE texter. B? Nope. He'll text me if I'm out of town, but that's about it. I use the heck out of my phone--audiobooks, pod casts, games with friends, Instagram, etc.--but when dinner time comes, it's on the counter with the ringer off. It has a parking spot. Same goes for bedtime. No phones in the bedroom.

    By having these rules firmly in place, when the time comes for the girls to have phones, it'll just be the norm. Until then, I'm thinking we might possibly need to dig up a corded phone so we actually answer the phone instead of looking for handsets when the phone rings...:oP

    1. I think if we do get to that smartphone having place (I'm picturing as Aden heads to high school in a couple of years and is not within walking distance of home every day) we'll have a charging table or something by the door where they will have to stay most of the time. For adults, too.

      One of my guilty pleasures is watching Celebrity Wife Swap while I work (because it's fascinating to see how other people live, and some of the "celebrities" are just incredibly weird), and Dweezil Zappa had a phone by the door rule for himself and his wife, and their daughter didn't have a phone. They had a nice little family that talked together and shared dinner every night, etc. When the new wife showed up she bought the daughter a phone and the girl pretty much stopped interacting with anyone in the house. She was glued to this little screen, and Dweezil just looked so irritated, and I didn't blame him because it was obviously not a change for the better. (In the other family the kids who were used to having cell phones had to shut them off and were then delighted to realize their bikes in the garage still worked and they all went on a ride together.)

      Anyway, when we get there, I will install a Dweezil table because I think he had the right idea.

  6. I love the old phones! Brings back such fond memories.