Originally published in the Pine County Courier May 4, 2017.
Paranoia “Will Destroy Ya”
I have experienced the crazy, unacceptable cultural phenomenon a lot this past year; life without a cell phone.
From August to February, I resided in China, teaching English. While there, I needed to purchase a phone that would work in China, in order to be in contact with my employer. I purchased a new Chinese phone for around $200 USD, more than I wanted to spend, but I was promised it would work well … ha!
During my stay, I think I had more periods of time without a phone than with one. In order to purchase a phone, or to have it fixed, I would have to travel over an hour to my closest phone store of that particular brand, and attempt try to communicate in Chinese without having a phone to translate. A few times I was able to bring friends with me, who had their cell phones to help. This was often a fairly agonizing trip, in just trying to communicate simple things, like that my phone was broken.
When my phone had broke for the third time, I was told I would have to travel yet another hour further to the factory, because it had broke so many times. I stated that I wouldn’t be able to do that, and was quite frankly too scared too, and they were not able to help me. Luckily I do not need my Chinese phone anymore, as I am back in the United States, but I also spent $200 on a faulty cell phone for six months, and am now unable to sell it.
A few weeks ago my parents, two puppies, and I were about 10 miles outside of Finlayson on Hwy. 18 when my phone of only a year decided to randomly shut off with 89 percent battery left, and not turn back on. I can tell you, this was not from over use in China, as it could not be used there. This was a great way to start an eight-hour road trip with my family each way… My Dad swore he would be able to fix it, and maybe I wasn’t restarting my phone properly. I laughed, as I was the youngest in the car by many years, and the only in the “tech generation.” If I couldn’t restart it, I did not think he had a chance.
After charging it, in two different states, and attempting at least a dozen times to restart it, my father and I finally declared my phone deceased the day before Easter. Because I was away from my current phone store on a holiday, I wasn’t able to get to our regular phone store until almost a week later. Our nice sales person could not believe anyone my age, or any age could function without a cell phone for a day let alone a week.
I was content without having a cell phone for a little while, then came the pondering of what was going on in the world? What am I possibly missing by not having a cell phone? What if someone is contacting me with inquires about work, offering me my dream job, or even asking me on a date? What if some giant news story happens abroad or at home, and I don’t know about it? As the great English band, The Kinks, famously said in their song Destroyer, “Paranoia will destroy ya.”
After what seemed like ages, but was most likely only a few hours, I was finally able to borrow some technology devices from my family. In doing this, I discovered the earth shattering updates I was missing out on. I had no missed calls or texts; I had only missed an update in a Facebook garage sale group, which I honestly had no interest in, and comments on someone else’s photo, and an instant message from my mother who knew I did not have a phone, whoopee! It turns out, you are not necessarily missing out on something by not having a cell phone, at least for a few hours.
Social media/cell phone addiction is a real thing. According to the director for the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, Dr. Greenfield, “The percentage of smartphone users who would actually be classified as addicted is estimated between 10-12 percent. However, in a survey of cell phone users, Dr. Greenfield found that around 90 percent of Americans fall in the category of overusing, misusing or abusing their devices. A recent study also found that 50 percent of teens feel that they are addicted to their devices. I am not sure if I fit into the “addicted,” category, as I survived almost a week and a half without any major incident, but I definitely feel that I may be in the 90 percent of Americans who are overusing their devices.
Although the numbers are concerning, it makes a lot of sense to me that so many Americans are abusing their devices. A cellphone has almost any information, or app of entertainment a person could want at their fingertips. A psychologist compared smart phones to mini-gambling devices, where the notifications and messages are rewards for the brain.
How does anyone break the addiction? I am not sure that any of us really can. Taking breaks from technology can help, but it may be too late in how dependent on technology our society is to communicate. Although I do not foresee giving up my new, refurbished phone anytime soon, I still understand the importance of communication with individuals face to face, and vow to put away the technology, no matter what story might be breaking when I am talking with someone.