Friday, April 22, 2011

Smartphones Make Me Feel Stupid

Last week I finally caved in to peer pressure that I get a cell phone that's so fancy it's basically like having my own robotic personal assistant. (If only it could cook meals for me too, that'd be perfect, especially because I can't cook meals without setting fire to a) the food b) my clothes c) anything else that is remotely flammable and happens to be nearby.) I also needed a new phone because I got my phone company to disconnect my local phone service in order to save money.

Since I renewed my contract with my phone company for another two years, they gave me a free cell phone; I think another reason was because I hadn't upgraded my phone in more than five years. I was one of those people who thought she was "above" all the other people who start shrieking and running around madly if they lose their cell phones. That only happens if I lose my iPod. Or if the grocery store runs out of Coke.

My Blackberry Torch 9800 is "refurbished", which is basically a fancy way of saying "used", but my phone company reassured me that it had been thoroughly inspected for any possible deficiencies before it was resold. When the representative told me that, I just kept wondering how many times the previous owner had sneezed on the phone and whether the company had thoroughly inspected it for any possible infections before reselling it.

Normal people who buy new cell phones can simply read the instructions and figure out how to use the various features in a short period of time. Or they choose not to try to figure everything out at once but rather over time as they continue using it. But anyone who reads this blog can tell that I have never been normal. But I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing. It can be, though, when you end up spending hours trying to figure out how to use a cell phone that makes you feel as if you should be chosen to be a contestant on the TV show Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, wherein all the ten year olds will laugh at you because you can't even figure out how to send e-mails on your phone, you NEANDERTHAL.

Here's a breakdown of what happened after I activated my cell phone last Saturday and then proceeded to try to figure out how to use it.

4:00 P.M. Gee whiz! A new cell phone! Look how fancy this looks! The screen is just so darn big! It's so much nicer than my old phone! Look at all the things that I can do on this phone! This is just swell and peachy keen! (When I'm happy I sometimes sound like one of those actors in a 1950s beach comedy.)

4:02 P.M. How exactly do I transfer all my old contacts to my new phone? The online directions say I should "tap contacts". But wait, where is the "Contacts" icon? Oh no, I accidentally clicked on Youtube!

4:03 P.M. Cool, my new phone has Youtube! This rocks! Why watch the videos on my laptop when I can watch them on my cell phone? I mean, other than the fact that I signed up for the cheapest data plan that my phone company offered and I'm probably racking up additional fees for every Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga video I watch?

4:04 P.M. Wait, why does it say "Not available on Mobile"? Awww....

4:06 P.M. Yes, I finally found a video I can watch on my phone! Now I can just sit back and...wait, the video is still buffering.

4:07 P.M. Still buffering.

4:08 P.M. Great! Now the video is playing! This is so cool! Now I can...wait, now it's buffering again.

4:09 P.M. Still buffering...

4:10 P.M. Oh, forget this. I'm just going to try transferring my iTunes to my cell phone. Now I won't have to replace my iPod that I bought more than five years ago and keeps breaking down as if it's saying, "Why don't you just get a new one and let me rest, for Pete's sake?"

4:30 P.M. Yay! Now all my songs and playlists are on my phone and...wait. Why do so many of the songs say "unsupported format"? Why is it I can play songs by Kelly Clarkson but not Colbie Caillat on my phone? (Side note: Yes, I know that my taste in music is basically the soundtrack for a chick flick. You can stop rolling your eyes now.)

5:17 P.M. Dagnabit! Fiddlesticks! Confound it all! Why can't I figure out how to use this thing? (When I get frustrated I start swearing in euphemisms like some cartoon character -pre-South Park era- or perhaps some actor from one of those old black-and-white movies where the characters are all American but they talk as if they have British accents. I am not exaggerating. When I started teaching, I didn't want to swear in front of my classes, so I started using euphemisms, much to the amusement of my students. I occasionally resorted to swearing in euphemisms  when I did embarrassing things, like accidentally fling a piece of chalk when I was gesturing with it, only to have the chalk come this close to hitting one of my students in the face.)

6:41 P.M. Maybe I should go to one of those cafes where they have free Wi-Fi. I bet the connection would be much better there and then I could finally watch a video without seeing that gosh darn "buffering" message every two seconds. But then I'd have to actually buy something to get that free Wi-Fi, and I only have eight dollars in cash right now. And I need that money to do laundry tomorrow. I mean, I could wear my jeans for a couple more days but I think that my socks and towels need to be washed at some point.

7:56 P.M. I can't believe I've been trying to figure this out for almost four hours. I should really get back to my other work at some point. Or at least put my cell phone down.

8:03 P.M. I wonder if I should include the numbers of the guys I dated in my list of contacts on this phone. It's not like I talk to them anymore (or want to talk to them, for that matter). If I include them on my list, I might accidentally call them someday and then they'll think that I want them back and I'll say, "NO! My phone called you, not me! I think my phone hates me and it's calling up all the guys I can no longer stand to be in the same room with out of revenge!

8:47 P.M. Why is it that whenever I tap on one of the icons, I end up opening up something else altogether?

9:21 P.M. Hey, someone's calling me! Wait, how do I answer this thing? Hello? Hellooo? Is anyone there?
Caller: (static) Hello?
Me: Maybe if I put it on speakerphone it'll work. Wait, why does it say "Call disconnected" now? Oh no. I think I just hung up on that person.

3:05 A.M. I can't sleep. Maybe that article I read about how staring at the screens of computers and cell phones for too long can give you insomnia really is true.

8:30 A.M. Gosh, my eyes look so red. I hope the people at Mass today don't think I'm some kind of demon in disguise who's out to tempt them with the evils of technology.

Now that I've had my phone for a few days, I more or less understand how to use it now. And I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed with all the things that my cell phone can do, especially because my old one basically enabled me to just send and receive text messages and phone calls.

But am I the only one who sometimes feels confused by all the new electronic devices out there? How did we ever survive without these things? I came of age in the nineties, where for most of the decade the Internet and cell phones were things that (for the most part) only rich people and nerds used, so I do recall a time when we were able to survive without them. How is it that you can't go out on the street these days without seeing at least a dozen people who spend more time checking their cell phones than, say, checking to make sure there aren't any cars before crossing the street? And how is it that I've now become one of those people? (But don't worry, I know I should put my phone away while crossing the street. But then I feel the urge to check my phone again as soon as I'm on the other side.)

Confound it all.


  1. My phone is 3 years old and has a fancy-pants slide-out keyboard. I refuse to get more fancy than that. My fingers are too fat for touch screens I fear and blackberries make me feel like I am always working (which I am, but I don't want to be accountable for answering emails at 3am). Good luck on figuring out the new phone!

  2. Don't worry, you'll figure it all out eventually! There's s bit of a learning curve to these things, especially if there're lots of extras. Now you can read ebooks on your phone! :)

  3. Hi Anna,
    My phone has a keyboard too, which is good because the touch screen is still a little too complicated for me. The Blackberry does let me know every time I get an e-mail, but you can change the notifications so it won't necessarily feel like you have to answer everything right away.

    Hi notesfromnadir,
    I didn't even know I could read ebooks on my phone! That's cool, especially since I don't have an iPad.

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  5. I'm one of those people who can understand how "electronic stuff" works almost immediately, but I only use my phone to call and text. I don't even check my, I used to buy a new phone every few months, then I realized I didn't use them at all and now I've got the same one for a couple of years :)

    This is the first time I read your blog, but I already love it!

  6. Hi Laurie,
    Aw, thanks! I have been checking my e-mail on this phone, mainly because I couldn't do that on my old phone. Except now I've been checking my e-mail a lot more frequently. :)

  7. I remember getting my iPhone (I got it a couple of years ago, so I was a little behind the game as well). I literally walked around holding it away from me, because I was afraid of it.

    Generally I don’t send emails from it unless I’m in transit and it’s really important, and I don’t have my computer on hand. But it’s nice to have the option.

    Have fun! Confound it all! :)

  8. Hi No Way Cupid,
    I kind of wish I had gotten an iPhone instead, because then maybe I could put more songs on it. But then again the only things I really needed the phone for were e-mails, phone calls, and text messages. I guess all the other stuff is nice, but it's just extra.

  9. You must be very tired. I watch other people so at ease with iPhones, and I'm amazed. But I bet they started out just like you. Well, maybe without the euphamisms and the ex-boyfriend phone number complications.

    I don't have Internet because I'm too cheap, but my phone has the capability. My phone would be smarter if I'd only let it.

  10. Hi Theresa,
    I figure that I'll fully understand how to use the phone by the time I need to upgrade to a new one, which will be in a couple years or so. :) I'm starting to understand why some of my students use their cell phones during class, but I still don't like it when they do that.