I was at home scrolling through my Facebook feed on my phone, watching some small video that a friend reposted, when my 10 month old LG G4 rebooted itself.
In the world of small consumer electronics, that event is usually nothing special. It doesn’t happen all the time, but having a device say “You know what, I just need to reboot” does happen. We shrug, wait the few minutes for the device to restart, and go right back to where we were. My LG G4, though, got stuck in a booting loop and wouldn’t return to a home screen.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my LG G4 had a hardware issue that was just counting down to when the phone would die (no recall notice, LG?). According to LG’s January 2016 statement to Android Authority, “LG Electronics has been made aware of a booting issue with the LG G4 smartphone that has now been identified as resulting from a loose contact between components.” Once that contact comes loose the phone bricks and becomes unusable. For some users that time is sooner, for some later. If you have an LG G4: Be prepared.
To the Strip Mall!
The good folks at our local AT&T store, whom we have always been treated with respect by, seemed to have their hands bound. I didn’t buy the insurance, but I was still within the warranty. The associate said they would have a replacement LG G4 shipped out to me, but it would take about a week to do so.
A week. A decade ago, we didn’t have smartphones, but their invention and proliferation has changed society as we know it. My wife and I don’t have a landline in our condo, specifically because we both have cell phones. An extra line would just be redundant, and I’m not about to give Comcast any more money than I absolutely have to. A week with no phone calls or texts can be done, but in this age of information, it’d be like willfully going deaf. Others would try to communicate, but I wouldn’t be able to hear them or even know they tried. Like it or not, cell phones have become a necessity of daily life.
My options were few. I couldn’t trade my phone in early for a new model, because it technically was broken. AT&T also doesn’t have a “loaner” program (seems like an oversight, this would inspire customer confidence). I also couldn’t pick up a phone and return it a week later, as this would incur a hefty “restocking” fee. So I did what I had to do, I bought their cheapest phone available on the spot, an LG B470 flip phone.
Living in the Aughts
I bought my first cell phone in 2001 at the same time as my then-girlfriend. Terrible decision. Don’t join in any contract with someone unless you’re committed to them. Life lesson. From there, it was flip phone to flip phone until 2010.
When my wife and I got married in the summer of 2010, the flip phone that I was rocking was destroyed on our honeymoon by a freak thunderstorm. Seeing as we were newlyweds and about to board a cruise out of country, my phone was the last thing on my mind. When we returned we bought a pair of our first smartphones, the Galaxy S.
This was only 6 years ago. Such a small time in the grand scheme of things, but such a large change in daily life.
Reaching for No Reason: The first thing I became acutely aware of with a flip phone in 2016 was exactly how often I would reach for my phone. Multiple times throughout the day I check my smartphone for new email, new social media comments, or other app fluff. With a phone that really only receives calls or texts, I keep flipping the phone open but then quickly realize it’s futile. It doesn’t have those frills, and if I get a call or text, the phone will let me know.
No GPS or Weather: Without Google Maps or weather widgets, I’ve felt a little lost (pardon the bad pun). Yes, I know, we use to get by without GPS maps and up-to-the-minute weather just fine. But with Google Maps and GPS devices, I’ve long rid my car of local maps. Also, storms just passed through this morning, and I had no idea they were coming. I could’ve used my home PC or work PC to check, but these are both things I have mentally relegated to my smartphone.
No Curated News: I also have felt much less informed overall. Lack of a smartphone means a lack of those in-between moments to check current events. I use social media, but I primarily use it to get my daily news. Groups that I’ve joined are both social interactions and a curated news delivery system. Yes, tell me all the news about Ultima, Star Trek, and Disc Golf! I’m all for them.
No Podcasts: All the podcasts that I keep up with will just have to be skipped this week, too. I won’t clean my house any less, but where I was listening to podcasts during my commute or while cleaning now will be silence or background music.
Tiny Pictures: And pictures on this little flip phone are laughable. Sure, I could take some, I guess, but without the ability to share them, what’s the point? We passed a business yesterday that it advertising itself as a “Cat Lounge”, and I didn’t even bother taking a picture to ask everyone what they thought that meant. I have no idea. A salon? A bar? Are cats welcome? What *is* that?! I couldn’t post the picture even if I did take it.
It’s not like these are monumental changes by any stretch, and are small annoyances at best. They highlight, though, just how integral these little devices have become in our daily rituals. It’s not in the large interactions that they found their use, but in the small periods of time between interactions. That podcast on the drive home, that quick check of social media in the bathroom, that look at the forecast in the morning.
The Reports of the Death of Social Interaction Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
People complain about how things were better before smartphones, though, how we talked to each other more and didn’t have our faces glued to screens. This is hyperbole, of course, but if anything my technological regression is making it clear how it’s *not* the devices that are to blame. People are.
If someone feels compelled to stick their face in a screen over having worthwhile human interaction, that’s the person doing that, not the device. That person who rudely talks on their phone while ordering coffee? That’s a rude person, not a rude phone. It’s essentially the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument, but applied to cell phones. Which is totally true. It’s the act that matters, not the device (cell phones aren’t designed solely for the purpose of death, though, which is the true basis of the guns argument).
So if you’re blaming your bad habits on your phone, nope, you’re in the wrong on this one. The phone is just an outlet to flex those bad habits, but you’re still the one doing them. Same goes, though, for blaming the downfall of society on devices or games. If all it took was a cell phone to trigger the downfall of society, then it wasn’t being held up by much in the first place. Stop blaming Pokemon Go on people’s lack of awareness, blame the unaware people.
A Return to Normalcy
Can’t wait to get my replaced G4 back, though. The feeling of connection, of direction, of making those in-between moments useful again. This has been a fun experiment, and it’s been interesting to note the minute changes in daily life that have snuck up over the years. Every once in a while it’s good to remove yourself from your comfort zone, if only to measure how much you have changed. But, seriously, AT&T, where’s your recall or loaner phone program?