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    I don’t own a smart phone. I have a dumb phone. With a little flip, I can open it and take a picture—-but I have a very fine camera that I prefer—- and with lots of patience, I can text. The only thing I can’t do is to call Uber, and that’s okay with me, because my Mother always told me not to get into a car with a stranger. I rarely use my cellphone, and few people have the number. I prefer a land line because, by voice mail, I can screen my calls, and talk to the people with whom I want to speak.

    Admittedly, smart phones are a wondrous invention, but people’s inability to disconnect is an increasingly serious problem. Common Sense Media found that “69% of parents and 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly,” and, according to a global survey by Counterpoint Research, “Smart phone users spend between 3 and 7 hours a day on mobile devices”.

    So, communication with a friend now means Face-time with a screen, not with a human being. And, the harvesting of personal information has revealed the dark side of Silicon Valley’s let’s-all-get-connected idealism.

    Recently, when reading an article about technology, I had to look up the meaning of “dystopia.” It is the exact opposite of “utopia,” and a not so good place. Dehumanizing and extremely unpleasant, there is a long list of problems with data mining of information, and the insidious exploitation by bad players to manipulate information, influence national elections and foment violence. Lawmakers are beginning to take a hard look at unbridled technology, but they are not the only ones.

    On October 1, 2018, Wyndham Grand’s five U.S. resorts gave families a 5% discount on their stay, if they managed to put their phones in timed lockboxes. They knew they had a problem when guests, sat in beach chairs and had to check their mobile devices, “roughly every 12 minutes.” Some vacation!

    Wyndham started to offer perks to guests,  who managed to exist without their mobile devices. Lisa Checchio, Wyndham Hotel’s Chief Marketing Officer said, “Everyone wants to be able to disconnect. They just need a little courage.”  Are you kidding me? Courage is dismantling a landmine—NOT LOOKING UP FROM YOUR PHONE!

    I recently showed a young woman my flip phone. She said, “I am going to get one of those. My smart phone is taking over my life.”

     I suggested that she start a group where people stand up and say something like, “Hello, My name is Lisa, and I am a smart phone addict.” Whereupon, other members will raise their arms, wiggle their thumbs, look directly at her, and say, “Hello, Lisa.”

    Unfortunately, like all other addicts, smart phone users will fall off the wagon, but not to worry, they won’t hurt themselves ,because they are always looking down.

    Esther Blumenfeld

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