Do you remember the Crackberry?

The notion of a digital detox is growing in popularity. In the less than 10 years since the introduction of the iPhone, we've gone from a planet of smartphone sceptics to fully paid up converts to the church of giant glowing touchscreens. Remember when we mocked self-important business execs for being addicted to their “Crackberry”? Remember the scorn we poured on them for being unable to leave the office behind? Well they had the last laugh! We’re all addicts now. Look around you now and count the number of bright high resolution surfaces there are within your reach.

Part of me thinks that this is attention the smartphone never wanted. It's done everything it could to dissuade us from moving away from our ancient Nokias. Today’s phones feature an enormous battery that still only lasts a day if you actually use the device, software that crashes and is constantly in need of updates. Bloated apps trying to put everything in one place from travel bookings to boarding passes to loyalty cards, often meeting all of these needs but only poorly. The final insult is the recent step up to screen sizes so cartoonishly large that they no longer fit in our hands or pockets and require two hands to operate.

Don't think me one of these people that hates progress. Far from it. I drive an electric hybrid, take photos using a mirrorless digital camera, heck I’m even writing a first draft of this on a big screen Android phone. Connected devices are incredibly powerful but there’s a sacrifice here that we need to acknowledge.

For a start, there’s the aesthetics. The problem with everything being a screen is that everything looks like a screen. From a distance, we’re all kind of the same. Android or iPhone, Pixel or G6, it doesn’t matter. Then there’s the software. We all use the same apps to have the same conversation and look at the same memes. It’s so boring!

Instead, I’m going to limit my actions with a smartphone to a small number of essentials like the service to charge my car that requires an app. I’m going to switch to a trusty MP 01. Not for a little while, not to try it out, but as a conscious decision to remind myself to look to talk to people rather than type at them. There’s also the added bonus that I get to use a beautiful device. One that feels great to hold and enjoy but does things which I use sparingly and then move on from. The limited number of features means it can be small, focussed and unobtrusive. A collection of very polite chirps and dings convey a charming personality and the buttons feel fantastic. Remember buttons? They’re great, I’ve missed them and I bet you will have too.

I know I sound like a hippy and I know that the choice I’m making is extreme and not for everyone but I am increasingly of the opinion that we grow as people when we talk.

Properly.

To one another.

In person is best but using voice is better than nothing and I can’t wait to spend more time thinking and speaking and less time tapping and swiping. I think if we all look up a little more we’d understand each other a lot better.

 

Iain Farrell

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