I’ve reached a sort of milestone lately.
In college I never had a cell phone. Halfway through freshman year, a friend gave me a broken early-generation touchscreen iPod that could text in wifi zones. I was perfectly satisfied with it. My friends, though, were annoyed — sometimes it was faster to search for me across campus or text someone I was with than wait for the iPod to blink awake.
So I didn’t officially acquire one until I moved to Worthington, straight out of college. I thought about it and selected a cheap pay-as-you-go phone in Wal-Mart. (If you’ve ever watched a crime thriller in which the protagonist purchases a “burner phone” to make a call on and discard, this was that phone. I had it for 18 months.) It was a temporary measure, I told people who asked, a phone to use until I researched something more permanent, more broadly useful.
I didn’t do any research.
I kept putting off the upgrade for a lot of reasons — picking out the perfect smartphone requires effort, funds, a commitment to researching the best possible decision… And I was getting by just fine with my little flip phone. I was also a little concerned about becoming glued to my phone.
However, the permanence also bothered me: if I was going to invest in a smartphone, I’d plan to be consistent, dependable… be around in a way I hadn’t before. Even though getting a good cell phone opens up the possibilities — access to maps, reviews, the whole of the Internet — it felt like putting down roots. It meant being accessible to others in a way I felt I hadn’t agreed to be, didn’t want to be.
I’ve always enjoyed the freedom to drop off the grid — not just in a no-social-media kind of way but in a disappearing sort of way. I’ve never liked responsibilities that made me stay wired in all the time, and investing in a smartphone seemed like it would require that. I could have people relying on me, and I’ve never felt ready to carry the weight of that.
It took me awhile to figure that one out, and I’m still thinking it through, even now.
But at the end of July, a fumble at the airport left me phone-less after midnight in St. Paul, and I started to rethink the delay.
I purchased a Moto X smartphone from Republic Wireless on a plan that’s fairly affordable on a student loans budget if I use wifi instead of data. I had to Google how does data work, but all in all, it was a success.
(While the flip phone was gone and before the smartphone arrived, a technological mix-up at the office and the falsely optimistic words, “Roberta can fix it, she has before,” and my coworkers’ inability to call me led to one of them a-knocking on my apartment door frantically at 11:30 p.m. I wasn’t quite asleep yet, but it sure took me awhile to sleep after.)
The phone arrived in a shiny white box, and honestly? I’m loving it so far.
I get emails on my phone, so I can take a walk on my lunch break and still stay in the loop at work. I’m starting — slowly — to use that Twitter account I started ages ago. I love Instagram, and I love having a camera available all the time. (And one of my coworkers gave me a brief tutorial on Snapchat, so maybe I’ll figure that one out, too.) (No promises.)
And the permanence thing? I’m still shaking that idea out, seeing where it came from. I’m not as opposed to the idea as I was before. Still, I don’t plan to be wired in 24/7.
There’s something to be said for jumping the grid now and again.
If you want to find me on Twitter or Instagram, I’m listed as @robertafultz. Snapchat… I’ll let you know.