Opinions, Column

Dumb Phone, Dumb Guy

Something seemed off.

As I read through the description of the new Gold Pass app a few weeks ago, I noticed that “checking in” to an event could be done completely electronically, and that students could check out new prizes and activities on their smartphones, as well as get more points for checking out if they stayed for the whole game. It seemed cool, until I realized that it didn’t say what to do if you didn’t have a smartphone. It was upon this realization that I looked at my LG Octane and sighed. It had happened again.

Our campus, and—just like it—our world, is becoming tailored to smartphone owners. Although the unwritten rule seems to be that writers must include the phrases “Sperry-wearing” and “sweaty Mod” in their analyses of Boston College culture, I’ve deemed it necessary to give a brutally honest, cliche-free revelation of how the other half lives. Fine, other hundredth.

First of all, it’s not a purely socioeconomic phenomenon. This summer, I saw patrons at a soup kitchen whip out Androids and iPhones while waiting in line—presumably to tweet about how bad the food was. The irony was so thick, you could cut it with a Razr. What I quickly realized is that owning these phones is not a matter of wealth, but rather a matter of priority. My family may eat nicer food than the guy at St. Francis House, but he has the superior phone. I used to think choosing better food was a no-brainer, but it’s certainly up for debate.

But at BC, the majority of students can have their cake and Instagram it, too. Smartphone technology is truly extraordinary, and it often makes life far easier and more enjoyable. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wished I could entertain myself with Pandora or Fruit Ninja while on the T or waiting for a bus. I might check my email, too. Snapchat, Vine, and other forms of social media allow us to share our lives with our friends anytime and anywhere, and they offer us countless distractions every time we check our phones.

When we let this technology into our lives, though, we must remember what we lose as well as what we gain. By eliminating boredom, we have made exciting moments less exciting and made boring things all the more arduous. Like any muscle or skill that’s rarely used, our imaginations get out of shape. It’s harder to get lost in our thoughts anymore. We can’t even sit through a quarter of a football game without taking seven Snapchats, a couple Instagram photos, and a selfie for good measure. Standing there with my dumbphone, I tell myself that I wouldn’t want to Snapchat or tweet about this game even if I could. I’m probably wrong though, as I look at people laughing, sharing, and discussing the event on this separate world of social media. Somehow, the new Walk of Shame has become the one over to the table with iPads to check into football games. The Gold Pass app works through our smartphones because that’s what we mostly look at during the actual event.

I must admit, I like being the odd man out. As I see everyone on campus narrowly avoid bumping into each other because their gaze is glued on the devices in their hands, I take extra care to smell the flowers and enjoy the sights around campus. I even let people bump into me. Also, girls flirtingly comment on my phone whenever they give me their number. (Note: I haven’t actually ever gotten a girl’s number, but I imagine that’s how it would play out.) I often pretend that resisting the smartphone movement should be a source of pride, idiotic as it is.

I don’t know, however, how much longer I will hold out, because doing so really is idiotic. Within five years, I’ll be respected about as much as the guy who said “horseless carriages” were just a fad. Social media and smartphone technology are changing the world around us as the simple daily boredoms of waiting at a checkout line and staring out the window of a plane become inconveniences of the past. The world will be, and already partially is, connected on a level far beyond face-to-face interaction. Anyone continuing to reject that technology is—perhaps unwisely—refusing to engage in a significant part of the world, and I am aware that I fall into that category.

It’s unfortunate, really. My best friends growing up—and to this day—are my cousins. The times every few months that all of our families got together for holidays or camping were unquestionably the best days of the year. When my dad commented on how lucky we were that we could all stay connected through social media between reunions, he misevaluated our relationship. My cousins and I rarely ever text each other. The essential part of those get-togethers was the presence of family and the things that could only be shared in that presence. Ghost stories, dumb pranks, and basketball games don’t translate well to Snapchat. It’s impossible to appreciate a moment unless both body and mind are there—social media in the palm of your hand creates a separation of the two.

But maybe that’s why we’re drawn to it. We constantly need distractions. If our lives are too dull, we can check out what exciting things our friends are doing or kill some time with Flappy Bird. It’s ironic that the only cure for this iAddiction—imagination—is the very thing being stifled by it.
So, I will continue to make that walk to the iPad table at the football games to check in, smartphone-free. You can call me stubborn, old-fashioned, simple, or cheap, but I think the best word for me is the one that also fits my phone—dumb.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Editor

October 6, 2014