I wrote most of this column in July 2021, but never submitted it, fearing I would be quickly pigeonholed as just another old-man-grouch. But a group of Brooklyn teenagers, recently featured in The New York Times, have given me the strength and inspiration to come out of my technological closet with a shocking admission: I don’t have a “smart” phone and still don’t want one.
It’s not that the computers in everyone’s pockets are too complicated. I’ve written software documentation and luxuriate in the incredible advancements in writing, research, and communication. Early on, I pounded away on a Royal manual typewriter and cursed each typo that required starting the page over, risking a new, and different error. (I’m not a great typist, and erasable paper was frowned on for letters and manuscripts.) I also spent hours in libraries that might or might not have useful research information, work I often complete today in a few minutes. And I don’t miss the early 1990s, before e-mail and file transfer protocols, when I often made high-speed trips on back roads to deliver a floppy disk for a 5 p.m. business deadline.
So why didn’t I welcome this bit of technology and cradle it like a newborn, excited by the miracle of its birth and anxious to see its growth? Since it wasn’t crucial to my work, I was able to indulge my vague worries about the effects of cell phones on our everyday lives. Since then, many have become realities.