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Do You See Your Smartphone as a Basic Need or as a Luxury?

Ottawa, Somerset and Bronson, June 2019
Ottawa, Somerset and Bronson, June 2019

I worked with this kind of people who print every single email (“I don’t trust computers”), use fax machines (“I don’t do that email thing”) or take a calculator to sum a column of numbers in Excel (“the what function?”), and I think they should be sent to an intensive Tech 101 boot camp before being allowed back into an office environment.

I have zero patience for people under 80 who don’t leverage technologies that have been around for years now—use your preferred OS, device and software but for fuck’s sake, step into the 21st century.

I reboot my laptop before freaking out because OMG, IT STOPPED WORKING!

I embrace new tools, platforms, updates and anything that makes my life easier.

I’m technically a millennial—I remember life without Internet but I’m tech savvy because, hey, that’s the world we live in today.

But then… I suck at smartphones.

I don’t trust smartphones. I don’t feel the need to constantly check my smartphone. I’d rather not rely on my smartphone. I’ve never used Tinder, Snapchat, Uber Eats, Instagram and plenty of other popular apps.

Shit. Maybe I am technologically challenged and living in the Stone Age.

I see my smartphone as 1) a dumb phone I use occasionally to call remarkably few people 2) a temporary basic replacement for my computer to check emails I will reply to later when I can use a physical keyboard 3) a device to play podcasts because I don’t have an MP3 player. I don’t usually text, type more than a short sentence or, God forbid, make transactions with my phone.

Why? Because I find it inconvenient. The screen is small, I hate typing on a touchscreen, many websites aren’t mobile friendly and those who forced you to use their app are the worst. I mean, why would I download your precious ad-filled app to access your precious ad-filled website?

It doesn’t help that in Canada, cellphone plans are incredibly expensive. Even after switching from Virgin Mobile to Videotron, I still pay $51.68/month for 3 GB of data and unlimited Canada-wide calling plus call display and voicemail. If you’re reading this from Europe, you’re probably laughing—and this is a cheap plan.

My smartphone falls into the “occasionally convenient but not a necessity” category, which I why I don’t take it when I go travelling. “That’s… brave,” a fellow backpacker commented last February. I explained my rational. I already have a laptop, a Kindle and a DSLR, so a phone is yet another device to keep an eye on. I don’t want to be connected all the time. And really, what do I need a smartphone for? I’m happy with paper maps (I write on them, keep them as a souvenir too), I check my emails and work on my laptop and I take better pictures with my DSLR.

Except the world is changing and it apparently expects all of us to have a smartphone.

For instance, in Latin America, absolutely everyone uses WhatsApp. I had to explain many accommodation providers that I had to be contacted by email, which caused complete confusion—if Canadians are known abroad for being technologically backward, well, blame me. In some places, Uber is also more popular than regular taxis and in Valparaíso, I was saved by a shop owner who booked me a ride when I admitted I didn’t have a phone with me.

Two-factor authentication involving smartphones is the bane if my existence.

“Get the smartphone app to sign in without a password. It’s more convenient and more secure!” Microsoft just prompted me when I logged into my Skype account. Oh hell, no.

Occasionally, Gmail or PayPal decides that to prove my identity, I have to type the PIN code they’ve just sent to my phone—great, except that when I’m travelling, I don’t have the fucking device with me. For instance, when I booked an apartment in Valparaíso through AirBnb, I had to give Feng’s phone number and call him to ask him for the code in order to create an account.

My laptop and a reliable Internet connexion are a necessity in my personal and professional life. Provided I have both, my smartphone isn’t. Am I an oddity? Am I missing something here?

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