Being Smarter with my Smartphone

Since it is apparent that a smartphone will be a part of my life I now must make sure that it adds positively to my enjoyment of life and does not distract from it. The main problem with my smartphone is games. I only play a few minutes here and there but the few minutes occupies space that far more important items could be occupying. The games also tend to keep me awake longer at night. I deleted all games off of the phone last night. Let’s see how this goes.

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Life With a Smartphone

A few days after starting the job in May I reactivated my smartphone. The trigger was trying to fill out the HR forms for the new job. I spent at least 1/2 hour on the phone with my wife trying to walk her through where to find the information on my computer that I could have accessed in minutes on my phone. When I was at home I could access information on my computer but now that I once again spend so much time away from home I need access to the information in the cloud.

The trick now is to gain the benefits of the smartphone while minimizing the downsides of it.

30 Days Without a Smartphone

Yesterday marked 30 days since I gave up my iPhone. I knew that I was attached to the phone but have been surprised at how attached I was to it. My positive and negative experiences are as follows:

Positive:

  • Pain relief. My hands and shoulders don’t constantly hurt and my neck is much less painful than before.
  • I am not constantly on a game, looking up a meme, checking email, or otherwise distracted.
  • I am more present when I am somewhere. I focus more on the people and things around me.
  • I have accomplished more of worth in the past thirty days than in the six months prior to that.
  • I discovered the value of a dedicated GPS. It is much less distracting than using the iPhone for the same purpose.
  • My phone lasts for days without being recharged.
  • Using a paper planner keeps me from having an endless to-do list.
  • I discovered that not every moment needs to be photographed.
  • Checking off a paper to-do is more satisfying than checking off one on Todoist. With Todoist it just disappears and Todoist’s options for viewing the completed tasks on a project aren’t as good as I would like to see.
  • I get tired of forwarding unimportant tasks so they eventually get dropped.
  • Nobody can hack my paper planner unless they physically get possession of it. Once something is stored on the net it is there basically forever.
  • My current phone was about $44 but a new iPhone can run $700. I left the dumb phone visible in the car yesterday by mistake and was not the least bit concerned about anyone stealing it. With the iPhone, I would have gone out of the store and retrieved it.
  • I feel freer than I did before. Like I have stepped off of the treadmill and am refusing to play the phone and tech companies games.

 

Negative

  • People don’t pay $700 plus monthly fees just because smartphones look cool. They are powerful tools that are not going away anytime soon.
  • Finding information about things and places is more difficult. The GPS has far less information and places in it than Google Maps does.
  • Paper is limited. My Todoist task list is infinitely flexible. Everything can be captured including every step of a project.
  • I have hundreds of passwords and contacts stored electronically and have had many instances where needed information was not there when I needed it.
  • Siri will read books and web pages to me while I do something else but my Kindle will not do that. The true value of Kindle to me is that Siri will read me the book. It is the only way I got through Dune and Moby Dick a few months ago.
  • The Kindle reader on the iPhone is better in many ways than the actual Kindle.
  • My paper day planner does not do Evernote so much information is missing.
  • Communication has been more difficult as I can’t get attachments or some text messages.
  • I can’t look up where an item is on the store app when I am in a big box store or read reviews on the product while I am looking at it in the store.
  • Living without a smartphone takes more advanced planning as the information is not always available in the moment.
  • Things stored in the cloud don’t usually get misplaced or left in a shopping cart at the store.

 

So where to go from here? I wanted to go at least thirty days and I’ve now done that. However, research indicates that breaking an addiction longer takes longer than thirty days. How long exactly is subject to debate. I have also found workarounds for many of the problems encountered so far and expect more workarounds to be implemented that will make it easier to continue without a smartphone.

I have been unemployed for the past seven months and have been at home. On Monday I start a new job. The communication challenge of being away from my wife and from my desktop computer will be greater without an iPhone. An iPhone can also allow me to listen to books and podcasts during the commute. Going back to the iPhone is tempting.

An iPad may offer the benefits of the phone without some of the negatives but due to cost, that possibility is on hold for now. For today at least I am resisting the call of the “ring” and continuing without the smartphone. So far, the positives of doing without the smartphone outweigh the negatives.

The Machine Gun Principle

1876 Gatling Gun

The basic idea behind a machine gun or a shotgun is that if you send enough high-speed lead at the target you’ll hit it. I think that success in something is often like that. It can be successful sales, getting a job, taking good pictures, succeeding at sports, or whatever. If you just keep shooting at the target your chances of hitting the target are much higher.

Life Without a Smartphone: Day 26

I heard a radio article interviewing the guy that gave this TED Talk about machine learning. Add machine learning to the fact that Apple, Google, Amazon, the phone companies, and other online data collectors literally know our every move, every purchase, and virtually every thought is extremely scary stuff. If they have it, governments have it or could have it very quickly. The Terminator could show up in the not so distant future. The future will probably look more like 1984 than Terminator where the political elite will simply gain more control over the rest of us.

My using or not using a smartphone won’t change the future as they can get all the data they need from other sources. I’m not advocating living in the Idaho wilderness without power, doctors, or toilet paper. People and groups that live apart and refuse to change just make themselves targets and don’t change the course of history.

It is becoming clear that life without a smartphone is not something I can sustain without difficulty. My eyes and neck were hurting today and I haven’t used a smartphone or tablet in some time. Once I decide to end this experiment, I’ll keep a positive outlook and use this technology for all its worth with a new appreciation of its addictive power and hopefully greater mastery of the technology.

 

Simple Surprise

I have been driving around without a front license plate since November. Fortunately, my Town and Country is as close to an invisible car as man has yet invented. I drove a classic Mustang for some time in my younger days and even then it was always noticed. “I used to have one of those;” “Nice car;” and an occasional challenge to a drag race were common occurrences. Not so with my minivan. It is not a vehicle that usually attracts police attention and the rest of the public don’t really notice them either.

No matter how bland my van is it was only a matter of time until I got to chat with officer friendly so it was time to install that license plate.

I didn’t want that chat that always begins with, “Do you know why I stopped you.” That is about as loaded a question as you can ever get asked and an ingenious invention on the part of a District Attorney somewhere. Whatever you admit to is an automatic confession recorded on tape. “Why yes, officer you stopped me because I was speeding in a school zone, have a broken headlight, have two outstanding warrants, and 10 pounds of cocaine in the trunk.”

Yes, I respect the police. They are indeed a thin blue line that holds back anarchy. Think about it, call them and five to ten minutes from the call they arrive ready to help you out of a very bad situation. I’ve seen them haul away rowdy neighbors, stop insane drivers, break up fights, and stand inches away from high-speed traffic to bring law and order. They are the real life tough guys that stand up to the criminals and take them down. That is serving and protecting and they need to be paid a lot more than they are.  So… Respect the police. Yes, I do. Trust the police. No. I’ve known too many police to trust them. The USA’s police don’t have the rampant corruption that Mexico embodies but corruption certainly exists and the justice system is seriously flawed.

The one officer that really stands out to me is the poor guy I saw one day in Florence, Alabama. Alabama has some nasty thunderstorms and this one was a standout even by Alabama’s standards. The clouds were so thick it was almost dark at midday, the wind was shaking the trees, the rain was so heavy that you could barely see to drive, and the lightening was lighting up the midday darkness every few minutes with accompanying thunder that shook windows. This guy was standing in the middle of a large intersection taking the place of the traffic signal that the storm had knocked out. To stand there braving rain, wind-tossed debris, red necks in 4 x 4 pickup trucks, and lightening was true courage. That guy seriously needed a raise.

But I digress… I expected a fairly difficult install possibly with bolts, dropped hardware, and a serious challenge to my commitment to a clean vocabulary.

The install could not have been simpler. Upon close examination, it became clear that the bumper is basically a big chunk of impact absorbing plastic. The folks at Chrysler made it easy by putting two divots at just the right spot in the bumper. I drilled two small pilot holes in the center of the divots with a cordless drill and a 5/64″ drill bit, lined the plate up, and installed the screws with a plain old slotted screwdriver.

Life Without a Smartphone: Days 22-25

Going to sleep is easier without the blue screen distractor. I went to bed early two days ago but due to my regular schedule and the unprocessed caffeine from the soda I drank earlier I could not go to sleep. I read until I was tired, then laid in bed looking up into the darkness and thinking. Some productive thoughts and ideas came to me. Previously I would have been playing World of Tanks Blitz or Boom Beach on the phone.

The modern first world ceramic reading throne has been used to read National Geographic, This Old House magazine, books, and other productive items rather than playing games or looking up useless things on the internet.

The past 25 days have been the most productive and focused 25 days in years but it has not been all good. Paper just can’t organize the way the electronic tools can. Every day is precious. Life is so very brief. Even the folks that live to old age have so little time. I wish to waste no more of my time on trivial things.