• Patrick McAndrew

Dumbphone DED by Pat Matsueda

As someone who doesn’t have a smartphone, I find the term “dumbphone” unflattering to my cellphone and to me, its owner and user. When a friend asked me if I use a dumbphone, I said no, I have an average phone. Maybe A-phone would be a good term.

What keeps me from getting a smartphone? I fear falling into one or more of several mind traps:

  1. Impulsivity- This is perhaps best illustrated by a story about a friend who is also a client of mine. Ms. F. cannot resist replying to my business messages on her smartphone. When I asked her to stop, she demurred. Saying that because she is busy and frequently on the go, I would have to wait for her replies until she got home and could use her computer to write me. I told her that I much preferred waiting. Why did I say this? Access to her smartphone makes her impulsive, feeling that she must respond instantly to its dings, rings, and clings. Sometimes her messages are riddled with typographical errors; other times, she’ll respond that she can’t reply fully—can’t see my attachment on her phone, for example. In other words, she’s writing me on her phone that she can’t respond to my important message until she gets home and can review carefully what I’ve sent.

  2. Status Seeking- Smartphones are status symbols, which is very easy to see when you’re observing teenagers. Adults won’t admit it—saying they need the latest iPhone or Galaxy for this or that reason—but they are just as susceptible to trends in phone fashion as young people.

  3. Easy-Solution Thinking- The response for most people to problems—whether economic, social, or political—is “Is there an app for that?” No, not every problem can be solved, or even addressed, with technology—smartphone apps included.

  4. Dependency- This is a big topic and has been addressed many times, usually in terms of smartphone addiction. I won’t add to the discussion except to say that I am concerned about many people using their smartphones to store a good portion of their lives. You won’t find on my A-phone any of the following: email correspondence, travel plans, financial data, work notes. You will find very blurry pictures of my cats and other family members.

We have let our private selves leak into electronic devices. They have become storage devices for large chunks of our lives—a dangerous liability should our devices be stolen or hacked. I don’t buy the argument that external forces have manipulated or coerced us. I believe that we ourselves have let this happen—and furthermore, we are passing on this vulnerability to younger generations.


Pat Matsueda is the managing editor of Manoa, an international literary journal published twice a year by the University of Hawaii Press. She is very interested in the effects of rapid technological advancement on human behavior–especially ethical behavior–and identity.  Feel free to visit her personal website at http://someperfectfuture.com

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