Archive for October 6th, 2015


“smart” phones


The first thing I am going to admit is, in a way, I don’t know what I am talking about. I moved to West Texas (with its spotty cell phone coverage) before smart phones were invented, and I don’t even have an old-time cell phone anymore. So I’m not in the mindset and becoming more alienated by the day.

I was an early adopter of cell phones back in the day when they were the size of a brick, but I bought into the technology when cell phones were still telephones and we used them as such. Now that they are used for text messaging, access to the Internet, as cameras, for social networking, listening to music, finding nearby restaurants or call-girls, and access to all manner of apps that tie you into god-knows-what, the vast majority of smartphone users have become zombies who rarely-if-ever take their eyes off their devices or even speak to other people on the phone.

The other day, some New Yorkers were complaining on the radio about how smartphone users walk too slowly on crowded sidewalks, absorbed in their narcissistic, private worlds. I’m not a New Yorker, but I can see how they’d be annoyed.

The other day on the radio, someone else reported on a piece of research that somebody did suggesting that the typical smartphone user spends six hours a day checking their messages. This is believable considering that their “phones” are continually vibrating, chirping, ringing or whatever, pushing some message or another which must be attended to NOW. It is insane, and if true, unproductive in the extreme.

Call me a Luddite if it will make you feel better, but I think smartphones are really dumb.

For example, take people who pay good money to attend the cinema, concerts, and sporting events. A recent study found that 31% of them are spending at least half of the time at these events looking down at their phones—some even watching concerts on their small screens. Duh?

Phone bans at concerts have become common practice for acts who are sick of looking out at a sea of glowing phones. “Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs posted on a sign outside one of their shows in New York City.

She & Him took this approach at a show in Toronto:

She & HimWhile these bans have been applauded on social media and are largely respected at music venues, a few determined vidiots tend to slip in at each show. Prince posted a set of “Purple Rules” that included no photography or cell phones, but rogue Instagrammers still managed to sneak videos. When The Eagles played to 11,500 fans in Michigan in 2014, the venue used ushers with flashlights to enforce their phone-free policy.

Added security is disruptive in itself and can’t police every concertgoer’s phone use inside the show. While people are increasingly aware that filming concerts is annoying, not everyone can be expected to exercise good manners.

n-YONDR-570“Until social norms catch up to new technology, there’s going to be a period of time where we have to set up the structure we want,” said Graham Dugoni, founder and CEO of “Yondr,” a company behind lightweight cases that lock smartphones inside. Some concert spaces around San Francisco started using the cases last year, and Yondr is expanding to venues in other regions. Yondr explains how the case works on its website: “As people enter the venue, our staff will place their phones in Yondr cases.” Voluntary handcuffs.

“Once they enter the phone-free zone, the cases will lock. While all customers will maintain possession of their phones, they are now free to enjoy the experience without distraction. If at any point they need to use their phones, they can step outside of the Yondr phone-free zone to unlock it.” Enforced civility.

Those who feel they can’t put away their phone for the length of a show may manage to evade the system, but it’s an unpopular decision.

“I’ve seen people pull their phones out, whether they smuggled them in in their underwear or what have you,” Dugoni said. “What I saw happen was that people around them instantly shunned them and were making fun of them.”

There’s also an app for fans who want to film the show but understand their behavior is annoying. A free iOS camera app “Kimd” allows users to take photos and videos with the phone’s screen dimmed and camera flash disabled.

64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phones’ data plans, some of which are unbelievably expensive as users buy enough bandwidth to watch movies. Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, 15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.

Certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels, in particular:

  • Younger adults: 15% of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access.
  • Those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment: Some 13% of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. Just 1% of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 per year rely on their smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
  • Non-whites: 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared with 4% of whites.

Even as a substantial minority of Americans, especially younger people, indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, for many users this access is often intermittent due to a combination of financial stresses and technical constraints. For example, I have repeatedly received calls from Derek King asking for help in paying his cell phone bill—otherwise he would be completely cut off from employment and housing opportunities. How can I say anything but “Yes?”

An article released in the last few days describes how 47% of young smartphone owners use their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them. Called “phubbing” (or phone snubbing), the behavior is is said to be a real epidemic in the US. It is specifically defined as “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.” This behavior occurs with young people roughly three times as much as with older smartphone owners, and is said to lead to anger, hurt, and jealousy. A growing number of young people can only interact with others when mediated by the new technology.

Manhattan-based clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona doesn’t seem to think things will be getting better any time real soon. The behavior, he says, “has become commonplace and (is) often a serious problem for many.”


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PS: Max seems to be fully recovered from his rattlesnake bite. The swelling on his muzzle and neck is totally gone, and he is once again exploring the desert as before. I’d have called your smartphone with the news, but I don’t have your number on speed dial.