Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Smart Phones and Sex Addiction

One reason I hate smart phones is that they turn their users into blithering idiots.

Every great invention has its drawbacks.   The automobile revolutionized transportation in this country.  It also causes tens of thousands of traffic deaths every year, pollutes the atmosphere, and consumes an inordinate amount of our incomes.  With every great advance, come great drawbacks as well.

And sadly, like the automobile, smart phones are becoming indispensable in everyday living in America.   Today, many young people are not only cutting the cord of their cable television, but also their high-speed internet connection.  For folks who don't work and live on the Internet, communication via smart phone is their sole source of interacting with the world - replacing the telephone land line, the high-speed internet connection, and cable television.  

As cell phone data speeds have improved, may young folks are gaming on their phones, watching videos on their phones, texting, accessing the Internet, e-mail, or whatever - all on their phones.  The only thing they are not doing is talking on them.   And since a smart phone can be used as a WiFi hotspot, you can even log into your e-mail from your laptop, using your smart phone as an internet portal.

And as smart phone penetration approaches 100%, more and more businesses are interacting with customers via smart phone.  It is getting to the point where not having a smart phone is like not having  car -  it can be a royal inconvenience.  Every bank or credit card company wants to text you with fraud warnings or balance updates.   Financial apps can help you balance your checkbook or credit card account.   Concert tickets and even airline tickets are now virtual apps on your phone.  The boarding pass on paper is becoming a thing of the past.

And the "electronic wallet" - an idea I've seen patents on since the 1990's - is finally starting to appear.   Carrying around credit cards and even a driver's license in physical form may be obsolete in 5-10 years at most.   It is getting to the point where you have to have one of these devices, and I detest being told I have to buy something I don't really want.

I have resisted buying a smartphone for years now, for a number of reasons.  First is the cost.  For about the price of a nice desktop computer or a laptop - or even two used laptops - you can buy a smart phone.   They are not cheap, to be sure, although there are some "low end" models out there if you look around.

Second is the whole status thing.  While looking at smartphones online, I was struck by how so many of these devices were sold on status - exclusivity or appearance.  The iPhone is the original "electronic jewelry" of course, but its cache as exclusive is rapidly evaporating as more and more people own them, and as other brands launch their own high-end overpriced models.

One company, One Plus, offers a phone to people by invitation only - as if you were standing in line to get into an exclusive night club.  It is clever marketing and their product isn't too bad.   But their prices are a bit on the high end, hence the clever marketing to make you want one.

But the worst thing about the smart phone is what it does to people.   It is safe to say the smart phone has changed the way we live, the way we type, the way we behave, and even the way we think.   And often, much of this is not for the better.

Compulsive smart phone usage is a curse on our society.  Not everyone with a smart phone is subject to this, but people who are predisposed to obsessive-compulsive behavior tend to be obsessive about their smart phones.  They touch them constantly, look at them, check them, message with them, tweet with them, and so on.   They live in constant fear that they are "missing something" in a parallel electronic universe, and if they don't keep looking at the smart phone all the time, they might miss out.

It is, of course, a Skinner box, and in a way like the "virtual pet" craze of a few years back.   If you recall that idiotic trend, small electronic devices were sold to kids (and even adults) that had a "virtual pet" program.   You had to feed and walk and pet your virtual pet every so often or it would get sick and die.  So you had to obsessively pander to this electronic device, lest your pet "die".  

Smart phones work the same way.  Once you start texting, you can't stop.   If someone sends you a text, and you don't respond, you are "missing something" and moreover they might get mad at you for not responding.  Once you are drawn into this virtual world, there is no turning back.

And people who obsessively smart phone are a pain-in-the-ass to be around.  You can't have a conversation with them, as it is constantly interrupted by their chirping or buzzing phone, or they look at their phone and text-message while they are talking to you. There is a third person in the conversation, but only one of you gets to talk to them.

Of course, some young people just cut to the chase and do everything by text.   You've seen it, no doubt, two young people, out on a "date" at a restaurant, not talking to each other, but each obsessively texting on their phones.   Why bother going out on a date at all?  Just text at home and eat virtual food and maybe have virtual sex.

And speaking of sex, one of the most popular "apps" for smart phones are the sex-related ones.   Whether it is Tinder or Grindr or whatever, people will post pictures of themselves online, along with their sexual preferences and habits, and hope to "hook up" with someone else.   Using tracking technology, you can tell if someone in the same room as you wants to have sex with you, right now.

This of course, caters to another obsession, sexual addiction Sexual addiction is not talked about a lot, of course, but it does happen, and happen a lot.  There are a lot of myths about sex in this country.  People believe that only "attractive" people have sex.  But even the ugliest of us can be a sex addict - often with the most attractive person (who is also a sex addict) and the smart phone has been like gasoline on the sexual addiction fire.

In the past, "hooking up" with another person would involve going to a singles bar (the "meat market") or some other "cruising" place to pick up someone of the same or opposite sex.  For middle-aged heterosexual singles (and marrieds on the sly) the local grocery store was often a huge pick-up spot.

There were classified ads in the local "dirty paper" (alternative paper) and when the Internet became popular, hooking up online started to take off - and is still popular today.    But increasingly, the smart phone is taking over as the go-to place for anonymous sex and a surprising number of people spend a lot of time looking at their smart phones, trying to figure out who they are going to fuck next.

Of course, whether this is just healthy human sexual behavior is something that could be debated.  I think, like any other addiction, it depends on how it affects your life.   Just as someone can be a "social drinker" or I suppose even a social marijuana user, when these drugs start to affect your family life, your marriage, your relationships, your job, or your financial situation, then maybe you have a problem.

With sex, obviously there can be issues, beyond the obvious ones such as STDs.   Compulsive sexual addiction can ruin marriages and tear apart families.   And it can affect your interpersonal relationships, particularly when you start to look at everyone in your life in terms of sexual conquests.   It can also affect your work life, particularly if you are sending and receiving dirty pictures at work or "leaving early" or taking a long lunch hour to have some sort of liaison (and yes, this sort of thing happens).  Your work performance suffers, and you could lose your job over someone seeing naughty photos on your smart phone while at the office (sexual harassment and all).  And let's not even talk about screwing your co-workers - something that often ends badly.

It can become such an obsession that people lose their jobs or forego career advancement because of their incessant need for sexual gratification.  And yes, I have seen this happen to friends of mine, firsthand, as they constantly troll sex sites on their smart phones, or respond to boops and beeps on these devices as they set off alarms telling them some sex partner is 134 feet away.  It is kind of sad, really.

Compulsive behaviors can be the most destructive behaviors, in terms of your personal life and finances.   And if you can harness other people's compulsive behaviors, it is like money in the bank.   Get people to smoke, or drink, or do drugs, and you can make huge profits because they cannot quit.   Sex, of course is the ultimate compulsive behavior - our minds are wired to do it, like it or not, as it is a desire that results in propagation of the species.

And like a Skinner box, the less frequent the reward (sex) the more the rat (you) is likely to push the lever (obsessively check the smart phone).   So infrequent but intense rewards tend to produce the strongest addictions.   Sex and smart phones are thus a perfect storm.

P.S. -

I am looking for a fairly decent mid-grade unlocked phone, preferably dual-mode (CDMA/GSM) with dual SIM cards, perhaps a removable SDRAM as well.  This would provide the best flexibility, but I may have to compromise, due to cost concerns.  I am hoping to purchase this and then use a non-contract low-cost carrier mostly for data (using my old GoPhone for voice) and of course, using WiFi wherever possible.  Since we travel, though I want to be able to use the phone for data in places where WiFi is not available.

It must have a removable battery, too - and a reasonable battery life.  Not too much to ask, right?

This article below has some interesting choices, mostly high-end machines (with the iPhone taking the top slot):

This article below, also from PC discusses some little-known low-cost non-contract plans:

These are a good start, but obviously, I have more research to do.

One thing I have learned so far is to beware of smart phones sold on eBay or Amazon.  Many are China-market only devices which are not designed for the US market or warranted here.  As a result, they may or may not work, and if they break, you have no support.

Also, of course, check to be sure your phone supports the carrier you intend to use (CDMA or its derivatives, or GSM or its derivatives).   A dual-mode phone works with both, but they are more expensive to buy.

Of course, it is just a lot easier to go to the AT&T store or the Verizon store and hand them your wallet and say, "give me the latest iPhone, PLEASE!"   But that can get costly in a real hurry.

UPDATE: We ended up buying used Samsung Galaxy 4S models on eBay for $99 apiece.  After several years they were outdated (would not run some apps) and we upgraded to used 7S models (again, eBay) for $199 each.  A lot cheaper than $1200 for an iPhone!  The 7S models are getting long in the tooth and probably will be replaced with used whatevers in a year or so.   Works for me!  No worrying about breaking or losing a phone or buying "phone insurance" or such nonsense.