As usual I’m a bit late joining the party and have only just got around to getting myself a smartphone. It’s in Chinese, cost me $50, and is really not much more than a glorified musical Christmas card. As I look at this bit of electrickery in my hand I wonder, isn’t the prefix ‘smart’ a bit of an exaggeration? In a similar way that a supermarket isn’t that terrific nor a happymeal all that joyous; isn’t the term ‘smart’ just oxymoronic when attached to a telephone? In fact I actually feel less smart and more stupid as I stab away at it like an old person with the clicker for the goggle-box, my patience, life and intelligence all draining away as quickly as the battery.
It’s big enough to check emails without too much squinting, yet small enough for my fat fingers to simultaneously press four buttons – sending badly spelled and incomplete text messages to strangers. And it seems that actually using it for talking is a secondary feature that involves such an awful lot of button pressing it’s hardly worth the effort. It really is such an alien piece of kit that perhaps it shouldn’t even be called a telephone, ‘smart’ or not; I wonder what Alexander Grahame Bell would think about this piece of devilry and the impact that it is having on our interactions with others?
In my mind a telephone will always be the olive green magic box that clicked and whirred away on its own table in a dark and draughty hallway. The stairs were there to produce a numb bum, the curly wire to twist nervously whilst waiting for someone to answer and the awkward whispered murmurings of young love, or sharing of salacious gossip across the wires were overheard by no one but the aspidistra. Having now escaped its inconspicuous hiding place the telephone seems to have somewhat taken over our lives. It’s become an essential accessory, one that allows the user to unashamedly broadcast their deepest darkest desires and secrets with everyone in the vicinity, before they dive back into its shiny screen in order to ignore and avoid the world around them.
Perhaps the term ‘smart’ refers to the fact that it seems to be possible to use the telephone at the same time as completing any manner of other activities, ‘multi-tasking’ so to speak.
I watched a family of four ‘multi-tasking’ in a restaurant the other night; they arrived, sat down, ordered, consumed, paid and left without once speaking to each other nor even looking up from the appliance each was using. Perhaps their collective lives are so busy that this was their only chance to catch up on the news. I assumed the two children had been created prior to the invention of the device, either that or they had got the whole ‘multi-tasking’ thing down to a fine art. But I did wonder whether the art of communicating and/or procreating will eventually disappear, perhaps due to the number of buttons that need pressing or the time that it takes?
In a meeting I attended a few weeks ago I was amazed that most of the participants were using their smartphones throughout; they may have been dealing with important emails, but I suspect that many were playing games like the women in front of me, I wanted to join in with them but all the apps on my phone are in Chinese. For the next meeting I’m going to take in a jigsaw, a big one, a thousand piecer. I’ll clear a space on the desk, empty the box out, turn to the chap playing scrabble next me and say –
“Give us a hand finding the edges would you?”
I doubt anyone will complain; they’ll all be too busy with their heads stuck into their telephones multitasking.
Smart people that they are…