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May 5, 2014

“It’s just a phone”

Filed under: General,Perspective,Technology Rant — Tags: , , , , , — Bryan @ 6:00 am

Today’s news: Police are upset that people are tracking their stolen phones down and confronting thieves.

No. No it’s not just a phone. Ten years ago, for most people, it might have still been just a phone. The reality today is that the modern smart phone is closer to what the medical community might call a Mnemonic Aid.

Let’s step back for a moment for those of you who just don’t get it, but may have had the chance to play video games anytime since the early 90’s. Think of it this way. You’re 40 hours into your favorite video game and your save file is lost for some reason (corrupted file, lost memory card, etc…). If you’re like any kid in this situation, you about lost your mind. Some of you said “forget this” and simply walked away from the game. Some of you burned another month getting back to where you last were. Either way, it sucked.

Is that too recent an analogy? How about this. At least for you pre-90’s guys out there. Remember the “little black book” or tiny sheet of paper you kept folded up in your wallet with the scribbled on phone numbers and addresses for every person you ever met. What happened when that piece of paper went through the washing machine? You probably about cried and desperately tried to recover what data you could from those scraps of wet paper in every way possible. You usually failed, but either way, it sucked.

If neither of those two analogies work for you then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe talk to your neighbor, friend, sibling for some perspective.

But if those analogies touched a nerve… magnify those feelings times a thousand? Times a million?

The modern smart phone is your save file/little black book on steroids. Consider, that for many people, the modern smart phone represents the personal narrative of someone’s life for the last year or two, or more if they have simply been transferring things forward like photos, contacts and who-knows what else. It’s the last photos of their father in the hospital before he passed away. It’s their daughter’s prom photo. It’s the heartfelt text from their now, ex telling them how much they loved them before everything went to hell. It’s the video they made two years ago with their friends in some city, celebrating some special event which was too crazy to post to Facebook, but it’s their favorite memory because they will never have all those wonderful friends together in one place again. For many it’s a device that keeps the proof of better times. For other’s it’s a quick reference to everything that is their life today.

It’s the bookmarks and sometimes phone numbers of every restaurant, club or store that someone keeps track of for quick reference. It’s personal notes, diaries, health trackers, fitness trackers, and in some cases all of a person’s favorite music.

It’s also the one device more so than even your home computer that has instant login access to every important website in your life. It might even store all your passwords as well.

If it was “just a phone”, people would be upset, they’d get over it. You can replace a thing. But it’s not “just a phone”. It’s not just a thing. It’s a personal narrative. It is a slice of life. It is the sum total of all of the most important save file data anyone can have in their life which they happen to carry with them everywhere they go.

Note to the police. People are not hunting down stolen phones. They are hunting down their save files and for some of them, that data is worth dying for.