People alive during the 1980s saw the beginning of a revolution that changed the way we all go about our day.

I feel lucky enough to have lived through the entire decade  – I got to see the evolution of video games, the rise and fall of the cassette tape, the short lived Beta video player and the introduction of compact discs.

What I do not remember seeing during those 10 years was the internet and smartphones.

The internet was introduced into my household in the early 1990s, and to log on required a phone connection to a computer desktop  – it also required a whole lot of patience.

My first cell phone was the size of a brick and had a horrible battery life.

The best way to get in contact with someone in the late 1990s was through a beeper, and communications got creative on the small devices. For example, using the number 43110 gave the appearance that you were saying “hello” to the recipient.

The evolution from pager to Nokia and Motorola cell phones occurred rapidly.

At one time, I had a Nokia cellphone that I could customize with colorful number pads, different plastic skins and an antenna that flashed like a disco ball when calls came in.

2007 was the year that everything changed  – I purchased my first smartphone. While everyone was getting their hands on the Apple iPhone, my wife and I purchased G7 phones that operated on Android because T-Mobile did not carry the iPhone.

The smartphone was great, but its full potential had not been tapped yet.

iPhones were created by Steve Jobs so that people did not have to carry their cell phone and iPod at the same time –  instead, he combined the two devices into one (Newport, 2019).

It was not until social media applications like Facebook and Twitter were developed for smartphones that the tech companies began to see what they could do with smartphones.

To these companies, it was a game of grabbing the attention of the user (Newport, 2019), but it was nothing new.

Benjamin Day started the first Penny Press in 1830 with the goal of selling a newspaper to get the attention of as many people as he could. This same model translated to smartphones (Newport, 2019).

This semester, I have learned that tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter are competing for our attention, and it is more apparent now than it was six weeks ago when the course I am taking at Quinnipiac University started.

Every day, I look around and see people on their phones.

These people may be riding the train to New York City, eating at a restaurant with someone they know, sitting in a park while their child plays or attending a meeting while affordable housing is discussed.

Rather than pay attention to their surroundings, these people look down at the glowing screen which they hold in their hands, staring like mad scientists with crazy grins and imaginary light bulbs illuminating and breaking over their heads.

Thumbs move up and down the screen, pushing viewed content out of the way so that new content can be seen. Every now and then, the thumbs pull the screen down multiple times out of paranoia that nothing new loaded onto the screen.

Before reading the assigned material this week, I thought it would be a great idea if people moved back to basic cell phones and get away from smartphones because these mini computers are robbing our society of time and attention  – oddly enough, Newport actually made the same suggestion.

Before making such a brash suggestion, Newport suggested possibly cutting down on the internet and quitting social media (Newport, 2016).

These suggestions attempt to pull the users away from their habits of constantly looking at their smart devices.

By turning off or deleting social media from a smartphone, the user would be less prone to pull up Facebook or Twitter because it was not available. Newport did not say cut it out completely. In fact, he said if someone wants to use social media, they should use it on their computer, not a smartphone, at given and limited times (Newport, 2019).

If all else fails, he recommended dumbing down the phone.

You may say to yourself, “but I need my phone for work and have to use social media because my job requires it.”

If that is the case, Newport said there are basic phones out there that allow people to forward calls from smartphones to. The phones are considered flip phones and look like Star Trek communicators.

I have considered switching to such a device to eliminate distractions and wasters of time.

This morning, like many other mornings, I found myself waking up, grabbing for my phone and wasting well over 30 minutes on social media and games.

Once I realized I was wasting my time, I was too lazy to make breakfast and went out instead of cooking in.

Maybe if I put the same amount of ambition into my morning routine of making breakfast and getting a head start on homework as I did scrolling on my phone, I would be able to relax and enjoy part of my day.

And this brings me back to life without the internet  – those were simple days.

When I would wake up in the 80s and early 90s, I was excited to go for a bike ride or morning surf. I had peace of mind in most things that I did and was not paranoid about what was going on in the world like I am today.

I admit, I’m more mature than I was then, but instead of looking at my phone or surfing the internet in the morning, I would much rather be at the beach with a hook, line and sinker waiting for the big one to take the bait.


Newport, C. (2019) Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World – Cal Newport – Google Books. Retrieved October 05, 2019, from https://books.google.com/books/about/Digital_Minimalism.html?id=uS9eDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false
Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world.

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