FBC 050218 Blog post

My ‘Horse and Buggy’ Flip Phone on the Information Super Highway
Holmes County, Ohio is a peaceful, rural area not far from where I live that is home to a unique sect called the Amish.  The Amish maintain an enviable simple way of life with a focus on their community of friends and family.  While I am not religiously Amish, it seems I have joined the digital Amish community.  
For a long time, I pondered the possibility of a simpler life without my smartphone.  But I never could leave the virtual global village long enough to trek into the rural backwoods of telecommunications. Then my Blackberry froze in technological purgatory.    
Yes, I said “Blackberry.”  To me, a Blackberry is a tool and an iPhone is a toy.  So, with a righteous pride, I gripped my QWERTY keyboard and professed my smartphone was for productivity. 

A few months back because of a Blackberry operating system update my Q10 was rendered brain dead.  I called customer service to revive the phone, but it was inoperable and I had to pull the plug.  I so grieved the loss of my mobile companion.  

Once I closed the casket on my Blackberry, it was time to move on.  Because of my disdain for iPhones, along with unfamiliarity with other brands, I opted to temporarily use a fifteen-dollar ‘burner phone’ until I could make an informed choice.  In a baptism by fire, I began clopping down the information superhighway with a cellular horse and buggy – a flip phone.   
At first, it was disconcerting not to hear the frequent and familiar notifications for emails, texts, and social media posts.  I experienced connectivity withdrawals from the whispered sounds of silence.   Without thinking, I found myself reaching for my phone like a forgetful widower reaching out in the dark of night for the hand of his recently passed wife.  I was restless when I was with my family because I didn’t have in hand my gateway to the virtual world to distract me from the real world that was in front of me. I was in the throes of a wireless detox with full-on cyber shakes and shivers that revealed the amount of emotional control that little mobile master held over me. 
But I made it.  After four months, I have learned that the smartphone that I thought was utilitarian was toxically ubiquitous in my life.   And I’m not the only one.  Recent reports have shown that more and more are taking a ride on the wireless horse and buggy.  According to the April 17, 2018 edition of The Outline, flip phones are the “hottest cultural trend.”  For some, the return to the flip phone is a socio-technological protest.  For others, like me, it is a genuine search for a simpler, quieter life.  
When I purchased my smartphone, I justified the expense to increase my productivity.  In fact, it has been proven cell phone usage was the means to increased productivity.   Iqbal Quadir, who began  GrameenPhone, a wireless company offering phone services to millions of rural Bangladeshi, noted that connectivity is productivity in third world countries like Bangladesh.  Quadir, who now teaches at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said in a 2006 TED Talk, “Phones have a triple impact. They provide business opportunities; connect the village to the world; and generate over time a culture of entrepreneurship, which is crucial for any economic development.
While true in otherwise disconnected third-world countries, some in the developed industrial nations have assumed connectivity increases smartphone users’ capacity.  That’s why businesses spend millions of dollars on cellular equipment to maintain a 24-7 connection.  Yet, I submit, the tyranny of the urgent constantly paraded before us makes us more reactive rather than responsive.
There has to be a saturation point of connectivity that leads to reduced productivity.    The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that if we don’t sharpen our ax, it will be harder to use (Ecclesiastes 10:10). At some point, smartphone users need a sabbatical to refresh their mind and rest their soul.  Nonetheless, effectiveness is often sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.  In my opinion, that’s what’s happening with the pervasive connectivity of smartphone users. 
I testify from experience as I enjoy writing this post from a simpler pace of life.   My thoughts are more reflective and my soul is more at ease. Eventually I may “break Amish” or have a bout of Rumshpringa and purchase an iPhone, but for now, I enjoy remaining less connected to a complicated, demanding world.