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Husted '13: Why I hate smartphones

I confess that I do not own a smartphone. I am a member of a dying breed of regular phone users, and my sin does not go without punishment. This summer I went into a store to replace my old phone, which I purchased in 2007, and was ridiculed by the store clerk when I pointed to the "new" phone that I wanted. To be honest, the phone I was pointing to had less technological capacity than a toaster. It seemed shocking to him that I would willingly choose to lock myself into a two-year contract with one of the handful of remaining "junk" phones.

Technology moves quickly. Just five years ago, my LG Voyager, Fred, was one of the best phones I could buy for personal use. Now he is so dated that old ladies would laugh at him.

There are several practical reasons to not own a smartphone. Perhaps you don't want to shell out $30 a month for a data plan. Or perhaps you don't want to respond to emails while having sex.

What if owning a Stone-Age phone is actually more pragmatic? Students at Brown are members of a generation that gets routinely criticized for its lack of patience and attention span. We need things quickly and painlessly whether it is information or entertainment. We used to get by with simple phones like Fred, but now we live in an age where Siri thinks and texts for us.

Buy a smartphone, and never be bored again. You can sit on a bus and play Angry Birds. Who wants to actually look around - or think, for that matter? That is far too boring. I am not saying that I'm not sometimes guilty of this. I waste time texting on Fred 2.0, but at least I'm communicating with another person. I don't own a smartphone because I don't need to see what Lil' Wayne is tweeting while I'm on the toilet.

What is perhaps the funniest aspect of smartphones is how utterly unnecessary they are yet how dependent people have become on them. It's pretty ironic that iPhones come with a compass since because of these devices we can't read maps anymore. Thanks for making humanity stupid, Steve Jobs.

Comedian Louis C.K. was on a talk show recently and commented about our tech-crazy society. Noting that people complain when they have a slow Internet connection, he responds, "It's going to space! ... Is the speed of light too slow for you?" He implies that people are not only ungrateful for the recent advances of our society but they feel entitled to these advances and are entirely dependent on them.

When Brown was switching around the Google apps this past summer, all of the students and professors that had naming conflicts with their accounts were notified. Unfortunately, the email that went out created a massive chain. Without the cover of anonymity, angered people harangued those who posted random videos or otherwise spammed the listserv. Compounding the problem were those who did not even bother to read anything in the chain and simply sent "unsubscribe" to everyone.

This email chain was not a big deal. It was a mild-mannered annoyance at the most and a nice break from typical emails at the least. But the level of anger and outrage expressed by those who had smartphones was comparable to the wailing heard at Kim Jong-il's funeral.

A BlogDailyHerald article was published in response to this event ("Why 'reply all' should be eradicated," July 20), in which the author gave a play-by-play of the "catastrophe" as the violent threats exchanged became more and more explicit - to point where an administrator had to step in and break up the fight. The author described the event as if it were morally on par with Kony's enlistment of child soldiers. Her headline was not meant to be a funny joke - she was Siriously upset. But arguing that the structure of email should be changed because of this fiasco is like wanting to end mass transportation because it isn't always fast.

My long, drawn out point is this: The problem isn't the "reply-all" feature of email. The source of this rage is the self-importance and impatience that goes along with owning a smartphone.

I want to make it clear that I am not against progress. That would be foolish. But progress is not necessarily desirable. The development of the plow ended well before it started telling us what restaurant we should eat at. The smartphone has not really made the phone better - it has just changed the definition of a phone. Now a phone is a gaming-camera-Internet-music-calling thing. I might add that it is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.

Fred may be less flashy than Siri, but he's more of a true friend. I can depend on him when I need him, but he's not a money- and time-sucking vampire.

Lucas Husted '13 can be reached at, but Fred isn't email capable, so it will probably take him several days to respond.



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