Inconvenience

When people need to make decisions about tools or skills or behaviors, they tend to “default” to one of several modes: do what society and/or their peers are doing, do what’s most familiar, or do what’s most convenient. Sometimes the decision modes all point to the same conclusion.

Then there are those of us who are a bit unconventional, or even contrarian.

When I decide not to follow the crowd, I make certain I have a logical reason for bucking the cascade. Herewith, the reason I do not possess a “smart phone.”

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First, an aside on what initiated this post–the reactions I get from colleagues, students, and friends when they see my cell phone. Said reactions range from astonishment to hilarity to well-meaning advice.

Yes, it is a “clamshell” model. Yes, it has a phone-style dial pad.

No, it is not connected to the internet. It has a camera, but why bother? The jpg files are minuscule, and there is no scrolling function.

This outmoded tool seems inconvenient. Why do I not update my phone?

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I am a creative writer, even though my everyday life is not particularly structured to enable full concentration on my “art.” Because I already have so many responsibilities to my family, my job, my home, and my community, my responsibility to writing poetry feels squeezed. The way I see it, a mobile device that I carry with me constantly and that I can use to tap into the internet, my email, my Facebook page, or my blog is just one more means of keeping those responsibilities and distractions with me at all times.

Writers such as Gary Shteyngart notwithstanding, that is not generally a method of existing that feels conducive to the writing process (though perhaps the writing process will change as society changes?).

No distractions. (photo credit, click on image)

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To think, to imagine, to reflect and mull and ruminate, I need time to unplug, disconnect, and disengage from my duties to others. Walking out-of-doors with no beeping or ringing or buzzing in my pocket lets me take in the immediate environment. The birds and the wind offer noises more random and are less insistent reminders of whatever-it-is-that-wants-to-be-urgent.

Indeed, I find it useful to inconvenience myself in this way. When I am not at a web-ready device, I have to turn to a book if I want to find the answer to a question. A dictionary, an encyclopedia, a reference text not only can answer my initial inquiry but may invite me to explore the topic more deeply. I may “get distracted” by another, unexpected entry in the book, read a chapter I hadn’t planned to read, or learn a new word or the etymology of a word that leads to…

…further imaginative exploration and thought (poems!).

Thus, inconveniencing myself is a worthy pursuit.

To be sure, the fact that I turn off my cell device or leave it at home may occasionally inconvenience others–people who expect me to pick up the phone and answer a call or text, on their time. Oh, my beloveds! I do value you and I respect your time; but your time and my time do not always need to coincide. [Truly, the decision on which ice cream to purchase can wait, or be accomplished without my input.]

Why tempt myself into further distraction? My clamshell model’s only good for one or two purposes, so it is easy to forget about it, to turn it off. One less nag. A chance to listen to something else. The last cricket of autumn. The rustle of a buck in the undergrowth. Hens murmuring in the chicken run.

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Eventually, I may have no choice but to upgrade; but I hope that by that time, my habit of turning off the social networking tool will be firmly in place and my desire to inconvenience myself will trump the advantages of immediate availability a smart phone can offer. This kind of reasoning works for me.