Why I Don’t Own a Smart Phone

A cringe.

This is the kind of reaction I get upon informing someone that I don’t own a smart phone.

The subsequent question or comment is almost always predictable.

“But aren’t you an engineer?”

Jedi mind trick we like to play.

Most people bring that up like all engineers are of the same make and mold – possessing the same skill sets.

It’s like saying that a civil engineer can write code or that a computer engineer can facilitate putting up infrastructures.

I am neither, by the way; I’m an electronics engineer.

And true enough, the company that I work for thrives on the consumer fascination of mobile devices.

Thus, the seeming contradiction.

It’s unbelievable to some and acutely annoying to others. Am I refusing to support the very business that funds my wanderlust?

Here’s a thought most just can’t wrap their head around: How could I possibly update my social media memberships at any given instant?

That’s actually the primary reason. I don’t have the compulsive desire of telling the world that I’m having an “awesome ramen meal @somerandomnoodleplace #awesome #foodtrip #yum”. The world doesn’t have to know every minute detail of each second of my day. And for the details that need to be made known, my preference has been the social over the media.

Every now and again, I’d say hi to friends using @engr_nel (shameless plug, I know). But in spite of social media’s ease, if given the option, I’d still call friends instead of sending them an SMS. Heck, much to the duress of my beau, I consistently request for hand written notes over any digital message. So while I do use email, Twitter and Viber for all its frills and free service; if I can, I’d be more personal about giving personal messages.

Let’s face it. This whole Facebook enthrallment really is sapping the interaction part of relationships. Which brings me to my second reason: Respecting other people’s company.

About two years ago, I was out to dinner with a friend of mine to celebrate his new job and my imminent return to Cebu. We went to this relatively “romantic” restaurant – given its location atop one of Taipei’s taller buildings.

There were a lot of couples surrounding us (I think we were the only ones there that were actually “just friends”). One would think that the dimmed bluish lights, jazz music and Italian food would be enough to set the mood for exchanging sweet little nothings through hushed voices.

The couple seated in the table next to us had just arrived a few minutes after we settled into the booth. As if on queue, the very second after the twosome sat down, they simultaneously pulled out their phones and started typing. And just like that, Eddie (my pal) met my gaze from across the table and I instantly knew that he was just as annoyed as I was.

Seriously? If they wanted to go on a texting spree, they should have just stayed home.

Texting on a Date

Even home, for me, is a somewhat similar case. When we were younger, my parents would always shut the television off when we had our meals. The same applied to our mobile devices – we had to leave them in our rooms. In retrospect, I think that’s a good thing because even when our family’s eating out, we subconsciously detach ourselves from cellular phones and tablets; leaving us with time for actual conversation. Time spent with family, or with people who add meaning to our lives, is priceless. No amount of Facebook Likes or re-Tweets can compensate for it.

And while we’re broaching the topic of compensation, the third and final reason is that I just don’t need it.

How could an engineer possibly not need one?

Let’s break down 24 hours of a regular work day. 8 hours (to 12 hours – if I have conference calls with colleagues overseas) is spent talking about electronics, convincing team mates that we’re doing the right thing for that certain gadget, or trying to create strategies on how to deal with the next mobile wonder; 3 hours spent in traffic; 6 hours for sleep (this suffers most) – leaving me with anywhere between 7 (best case) to 3 hours (worst case) to do pretty much everything else.

About one-third of my time is already focused on dealing with machines so my down time has to be spent away from anything involving keys and buttons. True that I still use a computer at home (like now) but my preference has been to distance myself from anything that is relevant to work when I’m not at work.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy what I do, because I wholeheartedly believe I got lucky with the jobs I’ve landed because of my chosen degree. In fact, the technology that is now on your standard smartphone touch screen was first introduced to me in 2005 (yeap, that long ago). I’m fascinated by the fact that it took around 5 years, or so, for it to become mainstream. A lot might argue that we’ve had touch screens long before today but they were mostly on ATMs and had very slow response time. Imagine my curiosity when this sales engineer comes in and shows our team a nifty pad that reacted with a swipe of the finger. My younger (more naive) self didn’t realize that we were being presented with what would soon be a standard piece of your iPad or Galaxy Note.

Admittedly, I’m looking forward to that next moment of wide-eyed fascination, when something so technologically groundbreaking crosses my path. I’m sure it will. Who knows, the sales engineer we’re meeting with tomorrow could be in possession of it.

And before the tech-savvy frown upon my reticence (if you haven’t already), I’m not even dismissing the fact that I might own a smart(er) phone some day. But for today, I will blissfully read books printed on actual paper; conveniently answer phone calls while maneuvering the steering wheel with the other hand (not advised but one can generally get away with it where I’m from); and happily stick my phone into the tiniest crevice of an overstuffed camping bag without worrying that the screen would break.

Play Time


10 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Own a Smart Phone

  1. I don’t have a Smart Phone, either. I don’t want one. Good for you. I have a flip phone that only makes calls, and I’m sure I will live without apps and constant updates.

    • Thanks for dropping in, kerbey. Ditto on the apps and updates. I’m perfectly fine without the consistent beeping and buzzing.

  2. Good to hear from someone else without a smartphone. Lunch at work is pretty much what you described at the restaurant, all my work friends sit down and immediately take out their phones (chatting, too–but still!). I’m a teacher and can remember when, in high school, it was a big deal to have a cell phone at all. Now my fifth graders have better phones than I do and–they’ve told me–send over 100 texts a week. It’s nuts.

    • Hi there, Michelle!

      Chatting while still monitoring/playing with their phones isn’t exactly a conversation, is it? Well, I hope you get to keep your sanity during lunch break. :)

  3. while i have taken plunge and entered the world of smart phones, when i am meeting with people i prefer to leave my cell phone to its own devices, if i can use that pun. enjoyed this post!

  4. I’ve always been a fan of Calvin and Hobbes — what wonderful final pictures to end your post. I can relate to most of what you said, and applaud you! The part I can’t relate to is leaving my mobile devices in my room when I was younger — because when I was younger we didn’t have mobile devices! So I am apparently showing my age. :)

    I grew up without cell phones and even without a VCR for most of my childhood. And we weren’t allowed to watch TV on the weekdays. As seeing friends on the weekends was more of a priority than television watching, I missed just about every show ever aired in the 1980s. But that’s a good thing.

    I agree that many people violate all basic rules of courtesy when they use their phones in public. But I also think there is a growing number of people who share your mindset, and hope that in the future, the rules of technological etiquette will be more widely followed. For a long time I was the only one I knew who was not on Facebook. But now, I am meeting an increasing number of people who aren’t on it either. Hooray! As you mentioned, things change. I do hope the intrusion of technology into everyday life will succumb to an ebb as much as it has the flow.

    • I deleted my Facebook account and have not looked back since. Life’s simpler this way. :)

      Calvin and Hobbes are so smart, I forget they’re not even ten (in the cartoons, that is).

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