Why some Canadians still say no to smartphones

February 19, 2013  |  Canadian Press  |  Comments

Spring Gillard is an avid blogger and active on social media, but don’t expect to see any emails or tweets sent from her Android device, BlackBerry or iPhone. She doesn’t own a smartphone. Or any mobile device, for that matter.

“I am on Facebook and Twitter and I use that in my work, but I just don’t want to be available 24 hours a day. And I really do feel that it’s important to give people your attention,” said Gillard of communications company Garden Heart Productions and writer of the blog Compost Diaries.

The Vancouver resident works from home and is amply wired for web use. But once Gillard steps away from the computer screen, she relishes the chance to be truly unplugged–and not tethered to a mobile device.

“I spend so much time on computers and email and everything else, and I just don’t want to go that extra step–and I don’t want to become one of those people that’s so tied to their device.”

A recent report by Rogers Communications revealed the majority of Canadians have a strong attachment to their mobile gadgets.

The survey of more than 1,000 smartphone or tablet users found that 65% said they felt naked without their smartphone and internet access. More than half of those polled said they check their mobile device before brushing their teeth in the morning.

From the iPhone 5 to the BlackBerry Z10, launches of the latest smartphones have become the tech world’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. But like Gillard, not everyone is flocking to snap up a mobile device.

U.S.-based Canadian technology blogger Justin Pot recently wrote an opinion piece for MakeUseOf.com outlining why he was happy to stay smartphone-free.

“It seems like smartphones are reprogramming people, making them respond to bells in a manner that would embarrass Pavlov’s dog. If you love that, great, but it’s not for me,” he wrote. The 27-year-old said he’d been explaining for a long time why he doesn’t own a smartphone and wanted to put it in writing.

“It’s surprising to people because it’s a very tech-savvy town that I live in, and part of my job as a reporter is talking to people in the tech community here,” the freelance journalist said in an interview from Boulder, Colo. “But also, it’s friends who just find it a little surprising that someone who spends so much time doing technological things and writing about technology doesn’t own one.”

A Google voice number redirects calls to his cell and computer, where he chats via Skype. “Would it be nice from time to time [to have a smartphone]? Yeah. Is it worth the cost? No,” he added. “There’s also the potential of being distracted by it constantly. And just add it all up and I’m just not all that interested.”

In Gillard’s case, the 55-year-old University of British Columbia graduate student posted on her blog last year about being in the minority on campus as a non-cellphone user while observing others on their devices.

“You watch people come out of the building at the end of class and everyone has their face down looking at their phone. People aren’t talking,” she said. “To me, that’s one of the most fabulous things about going to school: the social discourse that happens and engaging with people from all over the world and different ideas.”

Most young people are so used to being connected that for them, it’s almost a normal state of being, said Anabel Quan-Haase, associate professor of information and media studies and sociology at Western University in London, Ont.

“We’ve really now reached a level where the digital has become so ingrained in our daily lives…. it’s become so routinized.”

One of the key issues which arises for those considering using smartphones is the feeling of peer pressure or need to connect, she noted. “As we make choices about what devices we should use … part of the decision is also made in terms of `Well, first of all, what do others have?’ but also, `What allows us to connect best with that peer group, with that network?”’ she said. “That’s something that we saw also with Facebook and Twitter which is that the more people [that] are on it, there’s a moment where …everyone gets on it.”

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