When I was 12 years old, the first of my friends started getting mobile phones.
I was of course insanely jealous and wanted one myself, despite the fact that I had very little use for one, given that I saw all of my friends at school every day. For Christmas that year, I was given a flip phone. I almost fainted. It was a marvel. It was pink! And it made noises when you flipped it open and closed! Which caused you to constantly, compulsively flip it open and closed! Until the mechanism broke!
I lost that phone about six months later. I really didn’t have any use for it, and continually forgot to recharge it (ah, the days of prepaid credit). It took four years before I bought another one. A Nokia E72. I was appalled that my plan cost $42 a month, but the tiny little qwerty keypad was ace (I inherently distrust touchscreens, largely because I don’t understand how they work) and as a 16 year-old I couldn’t really get away with not having a phone.
I’ve had that phone for three and a half years now, which is a seriously long-term relationship in the world of phones. Everyone I know under the age of 65 seems to upgrade annually. Seems it’s the same for those over 65 – my grandma has a Samsung Galaxy S4.
I constantly make jokes about how my old Nokia only had Snake (not true. Also has a block game. Snake is the greatest phone game ever made, though; Angry Birds ain’t got nothing on Snake), and about how much I just don’t get Instagram, and just apps generally.
I’m not technology-illiterate, not really. And I can afford one of these newfangled 5S’ (5S’S? 5Si?), though the idea of spending a minimum of $60 a month on a phone still makes me wince, considering how many people could probably live on that amount of money for a month in impoverished nations.
The real reason I haven’t upgraded my phone – even though it would be convenient, even though everyone else has, even though smartphones are really incredibly cool and aesthetically pleasing and goddamn I love fingerprinting technology (we are in the future, guys! Isn’t it great?) – is that I don’t really need to.
There are basically only two things I need from my phone, and they haven’t changed since 2010:
- a way to let my family know I’m still alive at regular intervals, and
- a way to let people I’m meeting know where I am. Without a phone, I’d have to shout when I arrive at parties: “STEPH BOWE HAS ARRIVED!” This is not my style. Also, no-one has a clue who Steph Bowe is.
I don’t need to take artful photos of my meals at regular intervals. I don’t need to be in contact via chat with everybody I know every minute of the day. I’m happy with physical books in terms of entertainment. I don’t really need to check the internet with any frequency (I wouldn’t be able to do anything properly on my phone, anyway). My life without apps is just as satisfying as my life with apps would be.
I am wary of buying into this idea of needing a super high-tech phone, when I was perfectly content in the past without one. I am wary of becoming overly reliant on technology, and getting so caught up in it all that I miss out on other aspects of life (I was blogging obsessed at 14 and 15, and in retrospect I wish I’d spent more time outside).
I spend $19 a month on my phone plan, now. I’d rather spend the extra $40 I could be spending on a smartphone every month on actual life experiences. Going places! Doing things! Creating memories! You never really look back with fondness on all that time you spent tweeting, do you?
While I’m pretty happy with my trusty old Nokia, I still get weird pangs of ‘if I owned that excellent contraption, my life would be awesome’ every time a fancy phone ad comes on. The dark side may get me yet.
I highly encourage you to question why you want the whiz-bang phone you want. Is it cos it’s the fancy new model? Maybe that’s not a good reason, then, hey? (Though that fingerprint thing is awesome. I was obsessed with spying as a kid, which is a story for another time, and Steph the aspiring spy would be amazed by that.)
Steph is a 19 year-old YA author who grew up just outside Melbourne, but now lives in South-East Queensland, Australia with her family. Her debut novel, GIRL SAVES BOY, was published by Text Publishing in 2010. Her second novel, ALL THIS COULD END (Text Publishing), was published earlier this year. You can visit her website: Hey! Teenager of the Year.