I am old enough to remember life without cell phones. When I was a new driver, I remember pushing my broken-down car off the road and trying to find a phone booth so I could call for help. Today, it’s hard to imagine any parent sending their newly-licensed driver out without the assurance of a cellphone (no walk to the nearest phone booth necessary).

And speaking of phone booths, when’s the last time you saw one?

Technologies from my childhood, such as boomboxes, walkmans, and traditional watches are quickly going by the wayside. In an excerpt from his book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, Adam Greenfield reminds us that “ … many of the things … once relied upon to manage everyday life … have by now been subsumed by a single object, the mobile phone” (2017).

“The global trend towards dematerialization is unmistakable” (Greenfield, 2017).

Our phones have become an extension of our body. They are the ever-present tool that helps us navigate our highly-networked world. But let’s take a moment to contemplate what our smartphones provide – or fail to provide – in our lives.

The Good.

Personally, I like to use my phone to look things up. It’s like having an encyclopedia and a dictionary in my pocket. And how about using Google maps for directions? That’s definitely good. Good when you’re walking and good when you’re driving. No need for a separate GPS in your car. So convenient.

And let’s not forget safety. Today parents use their smartphone apps to track their children – constantly monitoring their whereabouts; not only in the interest of their child’s safety but also for their piece of mind. And that’s definitely good. Or is it?

What about privacy?

The Bad.

“The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% … in 2011”; but if you own a smartphone you have given up a significant amount of privacy (Pew Research Center, 2018) .

“If the smartphone is becoming a de facto necessity, it is at the same time impossible to use the device as intended without, in turn, surrendering data to it and the network beyond” (Greenfield, 2017).

Your smartphone is capable of reporting almost everything you do; but remember, the phone itself is not the culprit. The “overwhelming balance of its functionality must be downloaded … in the form of ‘apps’ ”. When you download an app you basically agree to “let your personal information be collected and sold to the highest bidder” (“Tracking devices,” 2019, para. 2). Your privacy has been monetized and is disappearing, just like phone booths (Greenfield, 2017) .

We want to think our personal information is private, but it’s not. Technology has evolved but our privacy has devolved; and basically, we’re blinded by our addiction.

“We’ve made this argument before and expect that many people will ignore it rather than give up access to the apps that help them work out more efficiently, find driving shortcuts or simply occupy themselves during quiet times. It’s a bad trade-off” (“Tracking devices,” 2019, para. 11).

So is your smartphone a convenient tool or a necessity? What price are you willing to pay to use it? Is it good, bad or … ?

You decide.

until nxt time …


Greenfield, A. (2018, January 8). A sociology of the smartphone. Longreads. Retrieved from

“Mobile fact sheet.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (February 5, 2018). Retrieved from

Tracking devices: Your smartphone is watching you — and reporting everything you do. (2019, January 4). Keene Sentinel. Retrieved from

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