120 Comments
Oct 20, 2022·edited Oct 20, 2022

I remember my first smart phone - an iPhone 3GS, bought sometime in 2009. After setting it up and downloading a few apps I had the sudden realization..."I will never need to be bored again!"

Waiting in line - solitaire.

Driving - Choose from the hundreds of Prog Rock CD's I had copied to it.

Later it became read a book, do the crossword, enjoy a puzzle.

I'm a Gen X'er who turns 50 next year. I don't FEEL like I've let the smartphone obsession go too far, but...I'm not the best judge, now, am I? I don't know. Everything has its use and place in time. I will never want for the days when navigating through a new city in a rental car involved trying to remember the instructions the friendly check-out agent gave me. Now I can just plug my destination into my phone and drive there in an efficient and easy manner. That's worth a lot, even though I only travel a few times a year.

As always, we take the good with the bad. Some will lean too hard into the bad, some will forgo too much of the good...but I think, most of us will strike a reasonable balance and enjoy an overall benefit. Gotta go - the new Spelling Bee was just released. KTHXBYE!!!

😊 (Oh, sorry, I forgot Matt-the-curmudgeon frowns on emoji's...oh well, I am who God made me 🤣)

Expand full comment

As a young IT professional, I find myself doing a fair bit of fence sitting on this topic. Every time a new development is made in the IT industry, the tech enthusiast in me can't help but be excited. Oh the wonders this new technology will bring. Developments in quantum computing and interplanetary networking are especially intriguing.

However, the years I've spent studying IT Assurance have made me want to surrender my worldly possessions and flee into the wilderness to escape the inevitable takeover of our sentient AI overlords. Or perhaps to escape the societal collapse wrought by state sponsored actors who will disable the worlds physical utilities infrastructure in a cyber war.

Oh what a time to be alive.

Expand full comment

I think I understand your perspective, but I’m not sure. Do I believe this tool is useful? If not I ditch it. Partially useful…then keep it partially disconnected for a reasonable amount of time. Reevaluate periodically. We are responsible for our relationship with our devices. If you are letting them guide you, turn it off and take a long walk in the woods. It’ll still be there tomorrow, or next week, or whenever you decide to let it back in again….your decision, no one else’s.

Expand full comment

Amen. My smart phone spends the night two rooms away from my bedroom. As did my old fashioned hard wired phone back in the day - if you need to reach me, you may do so during civil times of the day. I reported to a new office many years ago - before smart phones - and was told I would have to carry a pager, and asked if I minded. In return, I asked if the pager had an off switch, and when informed that it did, replied "No - I don't mind at all." QED

Expand full comment

Only him Matt. Only him.

Expand full comment
Oct 16, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

MP3 sympathy: my children (18 and 22) refuse to put music on their phones. They use the old Sansa MP3 players they got years ago to weed and mow the grass. My daughter has a fat 3-ring binder full of CDs that lives in her car.

The 18 year old has to move up to a smart phone soon because his 3G phone with the awesome slide out keyboard will no longer function after the end of this year.

The secret is to wait until you are old to have children.

Expand full comment

One of the many reasons why Zuckerberg’s Metaverse evangelism is failing is that we’ve already been contently living in one for at least decade thanks to tech and pervasive never ending social media and apps. I’m typing this on my smart phone while sitting in a cabin by a stream in Colorado.

Expand full comment

That's okay i'm reading this from the backseat of my tesla in autopilot barreling down i95 at 80mps hey watch out for that parked sem

Expand full comment

Marque...Hello?? Marque?

Damned smart phones. Always dropping calls.

Expand full comment
Oct 16, 2022·edited Oct 16, 2022

Every time Luddite Labash comes out of his cave to scold us for using modernity I think he sounds like Dana Carvey's vintage "Grumpy Old Man" character from SNL. The character's tag line was "That's the way it was and that's the way I liked it. God, how I loved it."

In short, he is bidding for the space opened by Andy Rooney's departure to the Great Beyond.

(I did literally (meant here _not_ in the Joe Biden sense, but in its actual meaning) laugh out loud at 'irradiated balls' though. I guess puerile toilet humor still makes me titter.)

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Jade. And I won't even take that Andy Rooney crack as an insult. (Rooney would've never said "irradiated balls.")

I got hate mail from him once back in the nineties. Will have to fish that out of the files. Though it will make me all weepy with nostalgia.

Expand full comment

Getting hate mail from Andy Rooney is essentially a red badge of courage for a journalist as far as I'm concerned.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, he was a total jerk. Of course, I was a jerk to him first, in print. I wrote something snarky about some segment of his. Can't remember what. So all's fair, I suppose. It was over in a second, and yet, the whole thing probably took a good three weeks. This was before the age of Twitter fights. You had to wait a while to insult and be insulted.

Expand full comment

You gettin' hate mail from Andy Rooney...

Not sure exactly how far is it from your east coast digs to MI's thumb, but just go open a window...

That's the sound of me laffin'...

Expand full comment

>>I got hate mail from him once back in the nineties. <<

I have to confess: This sentence by itself was hilarity enough to make my day!

Expand full comment

Ditto.

Expand full comment

Thank you for another wonderfully inspiring column. Scattered among our laughter was a walk down memory lane. When I see my husband attached to his iPhone, it is fun to remember him swearing he would Never have an electronic leash in the first days of his company mobile phones.

SallyJones

Expand full comment
author

Thanks Sally. I call it an "electronic monitoring bracelet," but electronic leash works, too. Same idea......

Expand full comment

After spending three weeks on a wonderful road trip with "proud to be a Luddite husband", this essay really hit home with me. I lost track of how many times he ranted about smart phone users of all ages walking around like zombies.

While we sat in our seats on a plane waiting for takeoff, a guy behind us was loudly conversing with different business colleagues as though he were sitting in a private space. I couldn't believe his complete lack of awareness while he babbled on sharing confidential details with all of us within earshot. I am really not sure how the convenience of constant connectivity has so drastically altered social behavior, but I miss the days of common courtesy and consideration for others.

I was so happy to learn you are a fan of Texas singer/songwriters. I'm right there with you.

Expand full comment
author

Mary, if that's your bag, you ought to check out Lyle Lovett's 1998 album "Step Inside This House" if you haven't. It's a double album in which he covers many of his favorite Texas singer-songwriters.

Expand full comment

Thanks. Need to dust off CDs and listen. Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett are favorites.

Expand full comment
Oct 15, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

i break out i a cold sweat every time i have to answer a cell phone. i can't hear easily, nor figure out how to get the speaker to work . copd affects all systems that have to integrate with today's tech.

do not have my own phone. constantly see people who are so happy to just be yakking for the sake of hearing their own voice. the mount of misinformation is staggering. fortunately when i need to know something about an app or how to open a chat, i have relatives that humor me ans probably

like to show their own skills off once in a while. they just need a guy old enough and disengaged enough that when it comes to tech, doesn't want to know anyhow.

Expand full comment

Hi, Tom. You know, what you wrote about people yapping on their phones just to hear their own voice made me realize that I seem to see more people staring like zombies at their tiny little screens and hammering away at them with their thumbs than actually 'talking' on their 'device'. Which might actually be a better word to use for these things these days than 'phone'. So, maybe they're tapping on their device just to 'see' their own words in print somewhere??? (mea culpa, I reckon)

Expand full comment

you're so right. we see both of these instances every day. we fundamentally need attention, and use of devices has become a way lonely folks halfheartedly get some of their need fulfilled. communication is difficult in the best of circumstances. we seem to have an especially bad time

with males and females signalling sexual desire. maybe we are closer to the day "i'm on em like

a bitch" gets an education in communication. more positive attention and we will have less need

for all these devices.

Expand full comment

Think you crammed a lot of insight into not many words there, Tom. Props.

Expand full comment
Oct 15, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I still have a flip phone, it has a camera ( that I never use), and I could get texting on it if I wanted to, which I don't ( I HATE texting for much the same reason as you..adding that it is useful for short sentences to discuss meeting with someone, or even short flirty things,) but, other than that it is a waste of time and not conducive to a real conversation...call me if you want to actually talk....though you can't call me on my flip, because i only turn it on in emergencies ( like car trouble) ...lol..you can however, call my landline or my work phone and leave a message if I am not available...( I do not want to be available to anyone at any time anyway, especially on vacations...lol)

I have managed so far to get away with this, but there have been several things/places that I can't do or get because they want to be able to text me....no thanks...email is bad enough...I can kinda get around most of this by having a google "cell" number...which I only use when there is no email option...it can be accessed on my laptop, and I can mostly ignore it otherwise.

I suspect at some point they are going to force me to get a smartphone...forcing me off the grid...lol...I often express my displeasure to reps/customer service people etc, that it may shock you but, I don't have a smartphone...first of all for numerous reasons that I don't need to convince you of...plus, they are expensive to buy and the service contracts are too...why would I spend a lot of money on something I don't want? Especially as I can use that money for something I do want...lol

My libertarian streak is flashing red on this issue....

I may end up alone in my house disconnected from most things nowadays....but at least I will have stuck to me principles

Expand full comment

You've got my total respect and admiration for remaining a holdout, Angie!

I would probably still be one if the spam/junk phone calls on the landline hadn't become a daily torrent long ago (never mind having signed up for the "do not call" list), and the rural landline service being higher than cell service...

Just a minor point of disagreement: I'd say that's your conservative streak showing here rather than your libertarian one. :-)

Expand full comment

Don Not Call list. phhttt...

If my rural landline is any indicator, those schmoes are sellin' the list to the telemarketers under the table.

Maybe Congress could investigate? Not like they don't have a good bit of practice at investigatin' stuff...

Expand full comment

HA....good point...

Expand full comment

Aww..thank you Marque...that means a lot to me

Ok, I have one of those too in some areas...lol...they sometimes overlap...( of course the current iteration of both is way out of my comfort zone...lol) ...

I get the landline through my cable service...Spectrum...it is $15 a month, and they have a feature where they can prevent most of the spam, or at least warn you it is, so you don't have to answer it....( and yes, the DNC thing doesn't work as well as advertised)...my flip phone is $10/month, but, 25 cents a minute, but months can go by where I don't make a call...works for me.

Expand full comment

Preach, Angie. I'm with ya' on the 'principles'. Though I'll probably have to cave at some point, assuming that point falls within my remaining lifetime, and acknowledging that resistance will likely prove futile in the end anyway, I'm standin' shoulder to shoulder with ya' for as long as possible.

Resist. To the bitter end, Sister. Resist!!!

Vive la Flip Phone!!!!!

Expand full comment

Yea us!...lol...

RAH RAH

Expand full comment

PS: Oh, I forgot, very funny and awesome piece

Expand full comment
Oct 15, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

Guy Clark would be Analog Boy. One of a few songs of his I’d not heard, so I appreciate the share. He certainly kept great company. I hope he’s built that boat and riding the waves with Townes, Nancy, Jerry Jeff et al. Growing up in the ‘60’s I had a girlfriend whose mother had been a professional dancer and had danced with Bill Robinson. Her mother (also an alcoholic) told me after Mr Bojangles came out, the he was the man in the song. Well, for me it seemed true, even if unconfirmed. Nice piece, Matt. Even in my 70’s Covid got me making virtual choir videos and Zooming yoga for a dedicated group of older gals that could no longer meet in person. Those two technologies kept me sane. All my senior friends (and even just middle-aged ones) call me when their devices turn on them. I’m just a reformed Luddite I guess.

Expand full comment

Could this be interpreted as comical irony? (asking for a friend who often doesn’t get jokes)

Expand full comment

In short, one of your best! Keep on keeping on, delivering those goods.

Expand full comment
Oct 15, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

"...iToldyouso’s"...love this!

Expand full comment