I'll always remember the exact moment I decided to throw away my smart phone. I was walking across the yard one night at camp last summer when I encountered one of our guests who was navigating his way between cabins while using the flashlight app on his own smart phone.
The night was crystal clear and the stars and the constellations in the pitch-black sky seemed so close you could reach up and grab them.
"If I could only get cell service here, or if you had wifi, I could tell you the name of those constellations. I've got an app that lets you point your phone at the sky and it will identify them. Isn't that amazing?" he asked.
I agreed but then added, "I know some constellations, which ones are you interested in?"
"That's just it," he said, "you don't have wifi, so I don't know."
"Well, I bet you know Ursa Major, better known as the Big Dipper," I said.
He looked at his phone.
"You know, the Big Dipper, it's shaped like a water dipper, like a sauce pan?"
"Do you know how to use the Big Dipper to find the North Star?"
"You line up the two stars on the end of the pot and extend them to the first star. That's the North Star, or Polaris. It's at the end of the handle that makes up the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor."
"I just need wifi," said the man.
I pointed to a group of stars making a big W. "That's Cassiopeia, the Queen. The W is a crown."
"That tiny dipper-shaped one is called the Pleiades."
The man looked at his phone again. "Are you thinking of getting wifi?" he asked. "This app is absolutely amazing. I wish I could show it to you."
That's when I had my epiphany. This guy had no interest in learning the constellations. If he wanted to know the name of a constellation, his phone would give him the answer which he wouldn't even commit to memory.
I started thinking about my own growing reliance on the same technology. The first thing I was doing when I got up in the morning was check the weather report. Before the smart phone I would have stepped outside, looked at the sky, gauged the wind speed and direction, estimated the temperature and made my own prediction. Back to the photo up top, taken at sunrise here in Nolalu, our winter home. Red sky in morning means precipitation. The east wind I felt meant the same. The temperature was just below freezing. So, it was going to snow, unless it warmed up in which case it was going to rain. And rain it was.
The point is, I used my brain to figure out the weather rather than relying on a piece of plastic and silicon chips. It's a good thing to use your brain. Use it or lose it, the health professionals tell us.
I like my brain. I think I'll keep it .
So about a month after the conversation in the yard, I scrapped my smart phone and went back to the flip phone. It works better for actual phoning up here in the North anyway. Cell towers are few and far between and the flip phones must have better antennae as you can get calls in many places where the smart phones cannot. My flip phone will work in some spots at camp, for instance. I don't carry it there, of course, but there have been times when the generator has gone out and I needed to call an expert. The flip phone will also work in the spring and fall when we don't even run the generator.
How will I identify things like constellations? I've got reference books on all kinds of things, including stars, and for some reason, the act of looking something up in a book better imprints the information in my head than does the instant answer on a smart phone. To put it a different way, books -- or people -- teach me things. The smart phone just told me things which I couldn't remember minutes later.
Use it or lose it. I like my brain.
|I bet angler Jerime Williams didn't need a smart phone app to tell him it was going to rain when he snapped this shot while fishing at camp this summer.|
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog