Monday, May 27, 2013

"Life Companion"

I am looking for a new phone. I am not a big fan of gadgets that, while they may be useful to some people, really just end up making my life more complicated if for no other reason than I have to try to figure out how to use them.

The cell companies are, in fact, at the top of my list of corporations whose main purpose seems to be to talk me into more and more expensive devices that I “need.” How, for example, have I survived this long without a smartphone? I have no idea. But when I sit in an airport, a meeting, or even a restaurant and watch people who look as though removing their phone from them would be comparable to removing an arm or leg, I’m pretty sure I don’t want anything to do with the smartphone phenomenon.

Alas, my phone is dying, and it looks like our family will be moving to a “data” plan and I will be forced to pick out a new phone. In addition, new responsibilities at work will make the benefits of accessing email anywhere helpful, given that I may be traveling more.

So I went online this morning to check out some options. From looking at a couple of my colleagues phones, and considering cost and compatibility, I decided to investigate the Samsung Galaxy. I was shocked at what I found.

The advertising on the webpage reads as follows:

Samsung Galaxy S4
Life Companion
Make your life richer, simpler, and more fun.
As a real life companion, the new Samsung GALAXY S4 helps bring us closer and captures those fun moments when we are together.
Each feature was designed to simplify our daily lives.
Furthermore, it cares enough to monitor our heath and well-being.
To put it simply, the Samsung GALAXY S4 is there for you.

I hope that disturbs you as much as it does me. A phone that will make my life “richer, simpler, and more fun”? Really??

A phone that “cares”?

A phone that is “there for you”?

Before you dismiss this as just creative marketing, consider how marketing tends to seep into us and shape us, something that Jamie Smith has pointed out.

And perhaps we could even wonder about people who would be moved by a paragraph like that. Is your phone your “companion”? And to think that classic, orthodox Christianity merely worried about putting a person in place of God.

There is something not just disturbing, but really sad about this. And I don’t think it is merely idle worrying on my part. More than once my husband and I have been out to dinner and have watched a (usually young) couple sit across the table from each other and gaze into, not each other’s eyes, but into their phones. A colleague of mine led a trip this past January and mentioned something similar. The students didn’t talk to each other at dinner, except to share something that they found interesting on their phones.

The question with all of this is, of course, how to combat it. If a cell company knows enough to market to the needs of the consumer in a way that suggests that a phone is equivalent to a person, we have already moved a dangerously long way down a questionable road.

So think about Jamie Smith’s question about Christian living: “What kind of person is this habit or practice trying to produce?”