The final blog about phones here at VSL. That would be "mobile" phones...

No photo for this one....

Can we talk frankly for just a minute? Thanks. I wrote a thing last week about iPhoneography and I pissed off everyone on the web. And I finally figured out why. As human beings we love the idea of freedom. We love the idea of individuality and charting our own destiny. It's hard to admit that we sometimes sabotage ourselves. The biggest problem for alcoholics and substance addicts, when it comes to kicking the bad habits, is being able to admit that they have a problem in the first place. Most addicts get angry whenever someone points out how their addiction is ruining their lives and the lives of everyone around them. They lash out. They write angry comments to bloggers.

I was temporarily blind to the big problem. Sure. The cameras in current phones are great. And there's no reason not to use them for lots of different imaging stuff. I guess I'm just hard wired to think that when we go from easy usability to cult status that something's out of kilter. But that's just me. If you can only afford "just a phone" or "just a camera" I think most people probably will take the phone. Especially if it has a camera inside. But most people living in the U.S. never really have to make that choice. Dump your cable or satellite TV fees and you can have....pretty much anything you want.

The camera caught my attention and I lashed out. But it was the wrong target. The reality is that it's cellphones themselves that really piss me off. iPhone-ography was just collateral damage for my rage. But why do I hate (yes HATE) cellphones?

Because of everyone else. Not you and me, of course. We're perfect gentlemen and ladies with our communications gear. No, I hate that woman who just drove her Chevy Suburban through the red light because she was glued to her phone. ("Sorry!" kids in the cross walk. Good dodging skills. Nobody got hurt). And I'm pissed because I met a famous photographer for lunch and, out of the hour we spent together 45 minutes of it was on the cellphone giving directions to his assistant or taking random calls. And I'm pissed because I went to see a movie and it seemed like half the people in the audience popped on their cellphones to text. And instead of the singular glow of the big screen we also had the multiple glow of dozens of hot little light spots in our field of vision. Very, very distracting. And I'm pissed off that I had to wait twice as long for a cup of coffee at Starbucks because the very important man in front of me was....on his cellphone having an inane conversation while the coffee person was trying to use mime and mental telepathy to divine the nature of his order. And I'm pissed off at the cop who ran into the stopped car in front of him because.....he was on his cell phone. And lets not forget the five or six people who literally ran into me at the grocery store while keeping their heads down, texting on their cellphones. And how about the guy who pretty much ruined our night out recently at a very nice restaurant who took a call and talked really loud about his real estate deal at the table next to ours? I was very impressed by his business acumen. But I was trying to use the dark side of the force to choke him with his own steak. And then there's the couple who came to see the one man play in a small, intimate theater, who actually took a phone call in the middle of the play. Oh, and let's not forget the people on Congress Ave. last week. One was so engaged in her cellphone call that she walked out in to traffic when the light was red and caused an accident as cars braked to prevent killing her. But let's also not forget the meeting last month where three "under thirties" and one "over fifty" had their cellphones in their laps so they could read texts while we discussed pre-production. That didn't hurt anyone but all three called, individually, to "get caught up" because they were "pre-occupied" during the meeting. That was an extra hour out of my life.

Of course we've all heard that talking on a cellphone while driving is as distracting and dangerous as having two or three beers before driving. And we know that thousands of people in the U.S. were killed in the last two years by people who lost control because they were.....talking on their cellphones or texting.

So, back to the idea of freedom. We live in a free country and that means you can do stupid stuff to yourself. You can go massively into debt and spend a third of your life working just to service debt you'll never be able to pay off. You can eat yourself to death. You can buy stupid stuff. And you can enslave yourself to your gadgets. Remember the days before cellphones? Your mind was clear and you understood your purpose in whatever moment you were in. There were so few distractions you were able to complete complex tasks in one sitting. You had real friends and you cherished your time together. You were able to look into your lover's eyes without thinking about who might be texting you.....right now.

I watch people and I've read studies. The average person with a smart phone seems to check for text messages every seven minutes. More often if they are not with friends. The average user seems to call "just to check in" with someone every fifteen to seventeen minutes.

"As long as they're not hurting anyone...." Oh, but they are. Men are earning less than ever before. Why? Because they can't multi-task. And women complain about not having enough time in the day. Why? Because studies show they are, on average, consuming 240.9 minutes of media a day. Yes. A day. That's roughly six hours, divided between their computers (non-work related) their iPads and their smart phones. This is time away from family and work. Time spent not exercising. Time not photographing or dancing or painting. Time not spent reading to their children. Time not being productive. Time not earning taxable income. And, recent studies show doctors getting much more involved in practicing malpractice by cellphone chatting during surgery. Pilots talking instead of paying attention to flight control. Police texting while driving. And construction workers texting and talking in unsafe areas. So, no one is getting hurt? Not so, according to statistics.

And I'm mad that we, as a culture, want to give people yet another reason to keep a cellphone in their chubby little hands by encouraging them to use it as a camera. It's already boyfriend, girlfriend, family substitute, time waster, traffic catalyst and social retardant. What more damage can we inflict with a few cubic inches of plastic and circuitry?

So, to me the whole idea of encouraging yet another use of the cellphone (as in photography) is like adding extra nicotine to cigarettes or extra alcohol to your can of hard lemonade. We are enabling a flood of addictive behavior like never before. In fact, if you can disable the voice, e-mail and text capabilities of cellphones and use them just as cameras then.....I'm all for it.