I am 21 years old, and I do not have a smartphone. While my peers have gone through countless phones, upgrading the moment Apple or Samsung releases a new model, I have only owned three phones. I’ve used my current phone, a Samsung Intensity III (a slide phone with a keyboard), for about two years.
Throughout high school and college, friends have asked me, “When are you going to upgrade your phone?” To be honest, I don’t know, and I don’t care. When I bought my current phone, I had the option to choose a smartphone and turned it down. At the Verizon store, I had hoped to find the same phone I’d already been using (I didn’t want to learn how to use a new one) when my dad mentioned that I could get a smartphone — but only if I paid for the data plan.
So, I’ll say it: I’m a college student. That phrase is usually synonymous with “I’m broke.” While that isn’t necessarily true, being a college student to me means that I’m at a stage in my life when I should start saving money. Eventually, I’ll go to grad school, pay rent, and shop for my own groceries. Saving now can really help later.
While phone shopping, I weighed the costs and benefits: Buying a smartphone meant that, on top of the usual texting and calling plan, I would have Wi-Fi and Internet access. Though that is well and good, I had a functional laptop I could use for the Internet. If I didn’t really need the Internet, was the price worth it? My data plan would have been about $30 a month — so about $360 a year. That’s a nice chunk of change to still have in my pocket. Prices may have changed since then, but for my family, our four-person phone plan costs more a month than our heating bill. I’d rather be warm than have data.
Money aside, I have more personal reasons for not upgrading. It drives me up the wall when I hang out with my friends and they spend most of that time texting, Snapchatting, playing games, or scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. If they have such harsh separation anxiety with their boyfriends and can’t say, “Hanging out with friends — I’ll talk to you later,” then their time is probably better spent with their boyfriends than with me. Do they text their friends that much while with their boyfriends? No. What happened to sisters before misters?
People joke about how a dozen people can sit together at a restaurant and all be on their phones, but that’s a real problem. I have suffered more than a few awkward lunch breaks at work, sitting at a table and holding my sandwich with two hands while my coworkers double-task — one hand picking at their fries as the other scrolls through social media. The silence is only broken when a frustrated employee joins the table with a new horror story.
The real horror story is the reaction people have to their phones. In Lucie Fink’s YouTube video “5 Days Without a Cell Phone,” several people say how they would feel if they didn’t have a phone. Most said they would physically fight another person. One girl actually said, “Why talk to people in real life when you can just talk to them on your phone?” What? Compared to Lucie’s positive outlook on losing her phone, those people’s comments seemed that much more profound. Similarly, I applauded Prince Ea’s video “Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?” He preached exactly what I think: People are so busy trying to connect to others virtually that they begin to lose their real relationships.
I don’t have a smartphone, because I don’t want to become another one of these media-crazed people. Not that I will never get a smartphone — when I graduate and find a job, I understand that I will need the constant Internet access to keep track of work matters. For now, while I still have the luxury of free time with friends over winter and spring breaks, I’m going to spend them actually talking to people face to face. A phone won’t define me — I will.