Why I Don’t Own a Smartphone [Updated]

In Rome a student group recently pelted iPhone clients with eggs and flour, trying to help them see their dependency. And that, according to them, big business makes fools of people by convincing them they need such status symbols. Deplorable methods to prove a point. But there is some truth to their message. And at least those students tried to evaluate the issues and not just go with the flow. 

I am likely among the few in Italy who don’t own a smartphone! And people often wonder why. So I tell them it’s a matter of ethics. Ethics that I try to apply to my shopping and use of technology as well.

And how about us? Do we follow all the trends? Or do we have ethics that guide our technology use and purchases?

First, what are ethics?

Ethics are principles or systems of morals that define right conduct. We all have a system of ethics, even if we’re unaware of it. In some cases, ethics are lax, with the attitude of “What does it matter?” while others watch every p and q carefully. But we all have them to some degree. As a Christ-follower I try to apply Biblical principles to everything, even technology.

Ethics and technology

Next, in what way should our ethics affect our technology?

To me it’s about dos and don’ts that can turn into legalism. (Computers and cell phones are OK, but not smartphones or video games.) Having guidelines, however, can help us make wise choices. How much, and to what extent should we embrace technology?

Evaluating technology use

Questions I ask when evaluating technology.

1. Will it empower me, or control me?

Those clients in Rome waited in line for up to 24 hours to get one of the latest smartphones on the market. 24 hours for a non-essential item. Time they could have been home with their family, relaxing, or even sleeping. Sadly, technology and an imagined need for it can control people.

2. Does this purchase meet a real need?

Companies produce updated and improved models in order to remain competitive. By pushing the latest and best, convince buyers that they need it. But our actual needs are relatively few.

A constant connection to the internet is not needed by most of us. Especially at the price of being disconnected from those nearest and dearest to us. Or at the cost of failing to meet our responsibility for those less fortunate than us. And for the environment.

Is it a good idea to let manufacturers convince us we need these items, and the latest models, too? What ever happened to: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it?” Or in this case, don’t replace it!

3. Does it use resources in an appropriate manner?

We are responsible for the earth’s care. How much of the earth’s resources do these items deplete? Are safe production methods always employed? How much ecological damage does the production of non-essential items cause?

4. Does this help me fulfill my social responsibilities?”

We’re called to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Can we do that while continually spending to fulfill an imaginary need for more? Shouldn’t our giving in this area at least come close to matching what we spend on non-essential items?

Will it empower me? Or control me?

I don’t own a Smartphone, at least not yet

And even though Mario’s students need to reach him, he did not have one either. A plain, old-fashioned (dumb) cell phone worked just fine. Until he had to change to a new SIM, which only works in smartphones. “Great,” we thought, “now they’re using even sneakier ways to get us to buy stuff we don’t need.” He now has a Smartphone he didn’t want, but had to buy.

“Well, but now he can do more with his phone,” you might say. He doesn’t really. Except to check the weather sometimes. Or look something up (rarely). It was really more an issue not only of planned obsolescence, but forced obsolescence.

And as for me, “Don’t have, but never will?” Who knows? We never know what tomorrow might bring. But we hope to continue following our code of ethics in evaluating our choices. And have enough determination to stick to our values.

‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are expedient. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be brought under the power of anything’, (1 Corinthians 6:12).

It’s really quite simple why I don’t own a Smartphone, and why to avoid unnecessary purchases. We don’t want things, or an imagined need of them, to control us. If we really need them, so be it. But for now, my need for a Smartphone does not exist. And caring for others and for God’s green earth are higher on our list of priorities.

We’re not about to hand our money (which is really God’s anyway) over any too quickly. Especially for something we don’t really need!

Credits: Resource: Stewardship as a Christian Worldview by Keith B. Miller, Ph.D. | Image: Woman with phone by janeb13.

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