Monday, February 17, 2014

Week of 02/17/2014

You Are Not Your Cellphone
– by David Matthews 2

In the middle of movie “Fight Club”, Tyler Derden gives one of his little memorable rants when he says “You are not your job.  You are not how much money you have your bank.  You’re not the car you drive.  You’re not the contents of your wallet.  You’re not you (beep)ing khakis.  You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

I’ll add one more…

You are not your cellphone.

In an earlier article, I commented that I really didn’t have a “smartphone”, but rather a “scam”-phone, because aside from the most basic of features, every other app on it would demand money in some way.  It was a cheap phone, provided for me by my cell provider at a really low price, and it gives me precisely what I needed, not what I wanted. 

But that, in a way, was a good thing, because I wasn’t fixated on those apps and on using the phone for a whole lot of things.  If I want apps, I have a tablet with a WiFi connection so I’m not using a data package that I don’t have and paying extra for it.  And, yeah, I’ve done a few of those fun apps with the tablet.  It was fun for a while, but then I got bored and moved on to better things.

And I’m beginning to understand that the real reason for many of those apps is so that you will use up your allotted space in your data plan so that you will have to pay more money to your cell provider.  After all, you really don’t know how much you’re spending until after the bill comes in.  Besides, you’re too busy trying to get to the next game level, or viewing that cute cat video, or checking Facebook to see who liked your latest comment, or uploading some cute picture on Instagram, to care about how much it will cost you when the bill comes in.

And that, I believe, is by design.

Not too long ago I went to a certain big-name brand appliance store in search for a certain new movie and printer ink.  Once upon a time, I used to be able to go to this big-name brand appliance store find these things with ease.  But not now.  Not only did they not carry the ink, but the video shelves where the certain new movie would be found were all empty.  Not only that, but I had to search to find this video, where previously new releases were displayed prominently when you walked through the doors.

Yes, once upon a time, this certain big-name brand appliance store used to be known as a place where you would find all sorts of movies and games and music, and would have these things right in the middle of the store.  All you had to do was walk through the front doors and there were the new releases, ready for you to purchase.

Do you know what is in that prestige store location now?


All sorts of cellphones, cellphone accessories, and provider packages.  Not to mention all sorts of help.  In fact there were more employees in that little section of the store than there were either at the registers or any place else outside of customer service.  All of whom were tripping over themselves to get anyone interested in a new cellphone and/or a new provider package.

I’m not talking about tablets or Apple products, although the associates in the computer section were also tripping over themselves getting people set up on a new iPad or tablet.  In fact they were more determined to help someone get set up on an iPad than they were in finding that printer ink I was looking for.  When you have three people helping with setting up an iPad and later only one person looking for ink, that’s a case of severely misplaced priorities.

I’m sure some people are thinking that this big-name brand store (whose favorite color is blue) is simply placing manpower where the greatest demand would be. And yet, when I was in that store, all of the customers were everywhere except in the cellphone section.  They weren’t looking for a new cellphone or a new cell package.

Then again, I don’t think those associates get a commission or a bonus for selling the latest Blu-Ray movie, do they?

And it’s not just that big-name brand store either.  Earlier that day I went to another certain big-name brand store (whose favorite color is also blue) on the hunt for the same two items.  Again, empty shelves in the movie section and on the shelf where that particular type of printer ink would normally be found.  But plenty of cellphones and cellphone accessories and provider packages galore to chose from!  And all right in front of the department desk where all of the associates congregate.

One store doing that can be considered a case of bad management.  Two different stores doing that makes you wonder if this is more of a deliberate pattern.

And that brings us back to the earlier proclamation about you not being your cellphone, because let’s get brutally honest here… cellphones have become the new crack cocaine for people, and the preferred drug to be dispensed by corporate dealers just salivating to suck up as much money from you as they can.

Take a look at all of those ads promising that you can upgrade your cellphone to the “latest-greatest” instead of having to wait until your contract has expired.  Look at all of the offers to pay for the “early termination fee” so you can switch to their service.  All to feed this man-made addiction that makes corporations richer and the masses poorer.

That brings us to the question that Big Corporate would rather you not ask yourself: why do you really need that cellphone?  If you think about it, if your cellphone already gives you everything want you want it to do, and it’s not broken, then you really have no need to get a new one.  Is your ego that fragile that you cannot go on without having the “latest-greatest” just for bragging rights?

A cellphone is a tool; and a pricey one at that.  The true cost of that tool is not just what you pay for the phone but also in the regular bills that you pay to your provider so you can use that phone.  The cellphone makers and the cell providers have been very careful in keeping that part as muddied as possible so they can rake in as much money as they can from you on a continual basis.

That last part fits the technical definition of a pimp.  So if the cellphone companies and their providers are pimps, what does that make you?

Or would you rather be seen for something more than just the things you buy?  If so, then just remember this little mantra:

You are not your job.

You are not how much money you have in the bank.

You are not your car.

You are not the contents of your wallet.

You are not your (beep)ing khakis.

And you are not your cellphone.

1 comment:

Leandro said...

"That brings us to the question that Big Corporate would rather you not ask yourself: why do you really need that cellphone? If you think about it, if your cellphone already gives you everything want you want it to do, and it’s not broken, then you really have no need to get a new one."

This bit breaks down for technical users. I have a cellphone that came with Android Gingerbread, I've rooted to get rid of crapware and upgraded up to the latest Android KitKat (the manufacturer itself didn't allow upgrades past Gingerbread) and yes, it *does* everything I want it to: I can use an app to remote desktop into servers, I've used it for streaming live audio to radio stations, I installed the Perl scripting language on the thing to write custom software. It does everything I want it to do.

But it's slow. My reason to upgrade it is the same reason I upgrade a my desktop computer: sure, it does everything I want it to, but wouldn't it be nice if a Visual Studio project finished a full rebuild in five minutes instead of twenty? Or if copying 5GB of data to another drive took under a minute instead of ten?

It doesn't come to just functionality. Nowadays, a smartphone is just a tiny computer that happens to have a cellular radio in it. Since buying this cellphone, I've been using my laptop less, because my cellphone can take over a lot of the basics, in a much smaller form factor. Upgrading for better specs is completely valid when you're a tech user that treats your cellphone as yet another computer.