Think About It: That’s the way it is

I haven’t finished reading the book, but assume that the analysis does not end up telling people to accept the reality as “that’s the way it is.

July 28, 2019 22:25
Smart phone

Close up of a man using mobile smart phone. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Last Wednesday, I finally decided to end my refusal to turn into the owner of a smartphone. I still believe that smartphones bring more harm than good to the world, insofar as they are addictive to all users, interfere with direct face-to-face communication (people sit around a table all engaged in their smartphones rather than with each other) and all the resulting consequences from this.
When I told an acquaintance that I was at long last the owner of a smartphone, she looked at me with a shocked expression, and said: “How can one live without a smartphone?” She is from my generation, and I reminded her that until just over 20 years ago we lived without computers and without mobile phones, or the more recent combination between the two – smartphones. I wrote a doctorate (on a portable typewriter), traveled extensively, had friends all around the world and lived a full, active and interesting life without all these devices, and until several days ago did very nicely without a smartphone.
Why did I finally give in? First of all, my “stupid” mobile had broken down, and I decided that even though I do very nicely with maps to figure out how to get to unfamiliar destinations, Waze would occasionally be useful. Besides, a growing number of vital online services require applications that can only be used on smartphones.
I still plan to use my PC for most of my Google searches and email communications, not to mention the writing of books and articles, and the smartphone will remain turned off most hours of the day (and most days). I shall do everything I can not to become addicted, and not to spend much of my day in the unhealthy position of my head bent down, and totally detached from my surroundings. I shall certainly not use my smartphone when in the company of other people, unless its use is somehow connected to what I am doing with these people. I hate being with people who use their smartphones in my presence, unless there is an emergency – I am old fashioned enough to think that doing so is impolite and even demeaning.

BUT WHAT I really want to write about is the experience I had while purchasing my phone and soon thereafter. After consulting several friends, I decided to purchase my smartphone from Partner, whose services I have used ever since I got my first mobile. I went to the branch in Talpiot in Jerusalem, I was attended by a very friendly, polite and patient saleswoman (an architectural student), who avoided bullshitting me, and immediately grasped that I had never before in my life held a smartphone and had no idea how to operate it. At my request, she showed me the simplest, cheapest device and patiently showed me the basic functions that I plan to use: The phone and the short message service.
As soon as I got home, I tried to practice what I had just learned. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the fact that if one presses an icon for too long, it might be erased, and I lost my messages icon. I tried to find it, but failed. I looked for the phone number of the branch where I had purchased the phone, but found none. I called up Partner’s technical assistance, but the polite person who answered seemed clueless, and offered to send someone to help me – at a charge, of course. I then asked whether he could give me the phone number of the branch in Talpiot. He asked his boss and answered that there was no phone there. I then asked whether his boss could call the manager of the branch and ask him to make contact with me. The answer was: No. I then asked to talk to the boss, and again, the answer was: No. I wondered out loud what I would do if I thought I had left my wallet at the branch, and wanted to find out whether it had been found without driving again to Talpiot, where parking is a problem. Needless to say, I was frustrated and furious.
I finally called up my daughter, who helped me find the lost icon (why couldn’t Partner’s serviceman do so?), and decided to go over to a nearby store that sells smartphones to ask if they could give me some more detailed instructions on how to use my new device, even though I hadn’t purchased it from them.
The following day, I got an email from Partner with a questionnaire on the quality of the service I had received at the Talpiot branch. Since there was no place in the questionnaire where I could add my complaint, in addition to praise for the saleswoman, I stopped answering the questionnaire, and sent a long email message to Partner’s ombudsman, in which I wrote that as long as Partner was trying to sell me something, the service was excellent, but half an hour later, when I needed some assistance – zilch.
When I told some friends about my experience, all of them answered: “That’s the way it is.” 
“Do you think that all is well?” I responded.
“No, but there is nothing to do about it.”
I REFUSE to accept this answer. We don’t have to sit back passively when mobile phone companies treat us like dairy cows (at least I wasn’t convinced to accept any “free gifts” from Partner – another nasty practice of mobile phone companies). Likewise, we don’t have to sit back sheepishly as banks close down branches, gradually remove any human services and believe that the solution is to teach digital skills to senior citizens, many of whom are at a loss, especially when they are called upon to use unfriendly websites.
Recently, while visiting Kiryat Tivon near Haifa, I wanted to change a NIS 100 note that I had accidentally torn, and which I was unable to stick together again. It transpired that none of the remaining bank branches in Kiryat Tivon have cashiers, and even the post office was unable to help. Fortunately, the Union Bank, where I bank, has branches, cashiers and their employees can be reached by phone – all a rare treat these days.
I am currently reading Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which deals with some of the very worrying effects of the modern day and age – especially the combination of biotechnology and information technology, which are already having a horrendous effect on our lives.
I haven’t finished reading the book, but assume that the analysis does not end up telling people to accept the reality as “that’s the way it is.” Just like the Right refuses to accept the “constitutional revolution” of the 1990s as a given and environmentalists refuse to accept global warming as inevitable, so our approach to all unacceptable developments – whether on the micro or macro levels – must not be a shrug of the shoulders, or pointing a finger up to heaven. Where there is a will, there is a way – and there is no earthly reason why we must let algorithms and greedy corporations dictate the course of our lives.

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