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?”
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.
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.