By SUSAN HATTIS ROLEF
The other day I received a text message from my mobile phone service provider – Partner – that at my request my “cellular surfing package” had been successfully upgraded without any additional charge.I had at no time asked for a surfing package, and certainly did not request the upgrading of such a package, for the simple reason that I do not own a smartphone, have no intention of purchasing one and consequently do not require a cellular surfing package.After close to an hour of effort, I finally managed to speak to someone from Partner’s customer service, who after checking my account, admitted that indeed I had not ordered a surfing package, and that it was all a mistake, which was corrected immediately. A mistake? I somehow doubt it. I suspect it was more of a fishing expedition on Partner’s part.What worried me most about the whole episode was that it demonstrates how easily the ever more sophisticated communications service providers can load onto us services that we do not want or require; while in this particular case no immediate charge to me was involved, in other cases charges might certainly be involved, and then one is called upon to prove that one didn’t request the service in the first place.In addition, the problem with services that claim to be free of charge is that one soon discovers that certain usages of the service do involve charges, of which one was not initially informed.Why do I refuse to own a smartphone? The reasons have nothing to do with the costs involved.Since I am perfectly satisfied with traditional means of communication – conventional phones, “stupid” mobile phones, and e-mail, which are less risky in terms of endangering my privacy than all the modern forms of social media for which smartphones are especially useful; am happy to use old fashioned maps to chart in advance my course when I drive out of town and am thus not robbed of my sense of spatial orientation; and am happy to use the Internet (which I do a lot in connection with my writing and personal interests) by means of an old fashioned PC that stands on a table in my study and is much more friendly to my eyes than a miniature device it is only rarely that I find myself envying those who do own a smartphone.AdvertisementHowever, the main reason I object to smartphones is their anti-social effects. Whenever I happen to sit in a cafe or restaurant I cannot help observing people sitting together, each immersed in his smartphone, ignoring each other. I am told that this is also what happens in many families these days.In the theater and at concerts, though most people in the audience turn off the sound from their smartphones, many do take a peep at the screens of their devices every so often to check for messages or just surf aimlessly. The light from their devices is a disturbing distraction to those sitting next to them.Most people are not ashamed to admit that they are addicted to their smartphones, feel absolutely lost without them, and many turn them on as soon as they wake up in the morning. The problem is that few try to do anything about their addiction, even if they are aware of it and are conscious of the damage that it causes.I recently had to complain to the manager of my local supermarket that one of the cashiers is constantly either holding personal conversations or surfing on his smartphone while “serving” customers.Recently it was reported that a group of mothers had formed a support group in order to keep their smartphones shut in the afternoons and evenings when they are attending to their children. Since all too frequently mothers (and fathers) are busy messing around with their smartphones rather than talking to/ playing with/paying attention to their children, this is certainly a welcome act. But where have we come to if parents need a support group in order to avoid ignoring their children? Of course, another problem is that the children themselves, from an increasingly young age, are addicted to smartphones.The other day I was shocked to observe that around a third of the primary-school children attending a summer camp at the Jerusalem Botanical Garden were using their smartphones while the camp’s activities were going on. In another recent experience I was almost run over while taking a walk, by a teenager on roller-blades, because she was simultaneously surfing on her smartphone while skating and didn’t see me.Which brings me to drivers using their smartphones while driving. Many serious traffic accidents – some fatal – are caused by drivers failing to concentrate on the road because their eyes and attention are on their smartphones.Last week TV Channel 10 broadcast a series of programs titled “A small country without language,” one of which highlighted another problem emanating from the use of smartphones by youths, which is communication by means of accepted linguistic shortcuts and emojis. Their command of “normal” language is frequently extremely poor. Some might say that there is nothing wrong with this phenomenon, and that there is no advantage to having “a way with words.” I disagree. It is like placing Donald Trump on par with Winston Churchill.Since I am no Luddite, all I can say is try to practice moderation. I have chosen to opt out.