“Dumb” vs. Smart: Escaping Your Phone

Originally written for MED 130 at Missouri State University on Jan. 21., 2016. Photo taken by Jenna deJong.

Finding “dumb” objects to obtain personal free time and divert attention away from a brightly lit screen? Oh, what horror!

In an article published by Brian Barrett from the savvy technology news website Wired.com, the author tells of his decision to purchase a “dumb” watch as opposed to a smart watch.

At first, the basic appeals of such an elaborate, yet condensed bit of technology are just that- appeals. It’s most prominent feature are the snippets of information you absorb with just a glance. The fact that you no longer have to slide a device out of your pocket, and instead just wear it on your wrist, makes it that much better.

However, Barrett points out that this compact device is only half-way. As frankly put, “an extension of my phone just reminds me of all the things that I’m potentially missing”. Checking a source for information that’s partial is unfulfilling. Your mental notes to check it out later start to build.

Instead of obtaining the story quick and easy, we’ve just dumbed it down to a version that’s not satisfactory. When we aim to talk about current events, all we can say is that we know of what happened. Individual, yet profound details are kept in the dark due to gigabyte space.

Another issue is that the smarter, slimmer, cooler watch is still just another thing that needs an outlet and charger. At the end of the night, you already plug in your tablet, laptop, kindle, phone, MP3 player, and now this. Oh, and don’t forget to leave enough power sources for your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven. Just, ya know, the basics for survival. The things that aren’t extraneous.

So what is the root of the problem? For Barrett, it’s checking the time. For him, checking the time “were funhouse doors cracked open just wide enough to escape my present-tense life.” Checking the time turned into scrolling through Facebook notifications, that turned into reading an article from the New York Times, that turned into looking up baseball game dates, that turned into locating nearby restaurants and before you know it, it’s 20 minutes later and you’re late to pick up your kid from childcare.

The time started it. All you wanted to see is if it was time for lunch yet and now you’re on your wife’s best friend’s godmother’s Instagram page.

The solution?

A dumb watch.

An old and frankly, unimproved, device that is restricted to one thing: telling the time.

By having it on your wrist, you may glance and be done. No more frequent notification checks, no more 75 weeks into their profile, no more BuzzFeed videos about what kind of pizza you are. You glance at the watch, however slim or bulky, shiny or dull, mentally calculate the ticking hands and BOOM. You’re done.

And it took less than thirty seconds.

For Barrett, this little, ordinary object has decreased the amount of time spent scrolling through Twitter. He said after purchasing it, he’s “managed to dramatically cut down on unforced errors”. He is no longer on that godmother’s feed. He’s changed.

Dumb objects are the perfect way to escape into reality. A real, un-virtual reality. You lose yourself in the present moment, you talk to people face-to-face. Sure, use your devices to obtain information, but once you’ve hit the 25 minute mark and you’re looking at funny videos of cats, check that dumb watch on your wrist.

Your time is up.

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