Dumbphones Not Welcome

“Your Dumbphone isn’t welcome around here!” Ever feel that way about not having the latest technology in the phone and gadget world? I know I do. Even though Kelly Rivard told me this in a completely joking manner during last night’s #agchat twitter conversation, she made a pretty valid point. Maybe I’m naive, but I think my LG Slider, with only texting capability, is perfectly capable in today’s world. And as a bonus, it easily survives, snow, rain, mud, stocktanks, truck tires, and hay hauling.

I don’t have a the latest smartphone, tablet, gadget, or what-not. One, I can’t really afford the phone or the data plan. Two, if I had the internet in my hands all day and apps to do everything for me, what would I really get done. Proponents of mobile technology say it’s great, they are more efficient, can receive information quicker, and get more stuff done. Really? I’ve seen more than one person who can’t figure the simplest of cattle breakeven or basic feed rations on scratch paper because they learned how to do it on a computer. Are we becoming so dependent on computer technology that we are becoming lazy and forgetting how to do the simplest of tasks? I’ll say yes.

No lie, I went to take the GRE last week. The lady at the desk asked students to write a paragraph in cursive handwriting. There were college graduates who had the hardest time remembering how to write in cursive. Not that writing in cursive is a life skill in the world, but were we not supposed to learn that in the 2nd grade? We text and type and write papers electronically so much these days, cursive has become a dead language to young people my age.

I hear old timers in the cattle industry all the time say “Oh that guy has just done research in the lab. He doesn’t know how things work out here in the real world.” And to a point, they’re right. I have seen several occasions where people forget how to do basic procedures because they do everything electronically. I’m not saying ban all electronics and technology, but what are you going to do when the power goes out? I’m will to bet you complain you can’t watch tv. Oh wait, there’s an app for that too…

Advances in technology are great. They have helped me learn more about the cattle industry, ranching in other regions, and new discoveries in science, but I still have a strong appreciation for the hands-on skills and a lil elbow grease. I’ll gladly send you a text message greeting or give you a phone call to tell ya all about it, but you won’t find me surfing the web from horseback (At least not this week). I’ll just Facebook you when I get to the house.

What’s the biggest advantage you have found from using mobile technology? Can you name a basic task or calculation you have forgotten because you now use electronics to do that?


  1. I can’t resist. Verizon has the Casio Commando “smart”phone that survives stock tanks, wind, snow, dust, and most other things on the farm and still brings along with you. There’s something cool about taking a picture in the middle of a field, uploading it to Facebook, and never leaving the truck. I will warn you that the extra tough phones are not bulldozer proof though (depending on the size of the bulldozer).

    I have a spreadsheet of my cattle. Every cow and calf are on the spreadsheet. Every pound of feed I put out I mark, and every bag of mineral, every syringe, every anything is on the spreadsheet. I have the spreadsheet on my phone.

    That said, since I grew up in the technology age, I feel like my ability to memorize things is nowhere near that of the generation before me. Why memorize it when you have Google in your pocket?

  2. Great point, Ryan. We need to be conscious of some of the “classics” in addition to trying to stay up to date with what’s “timely.” I wouldn’t trade my Droid for anything, but I am also proud of the fact that I have VERY well-developed cursive handwriting.

    I tease about the dumbphone, because you miss out on so much extra fun. I’ll admit that up until January, I used a dumbphone for Twitter and a little bit of Facebook usage, but after making the switch, I don’t think I could ever go back. Assuming I have good signal (which, I found out, does not exist in most places in Wyoming), I have Internet anywhere I need it. As a professional communicator and a social media addict, I love that.

    I think it’s up to our generation to show that just because you’re “book smart” doesn’t mean you lack the hands on experience and know-how to be truly effective and well-rounded. Society today calls for a higher amount of education for young people to continue the same jobs that older generations did. In some ways, that’s bad, because there is a higher risk of folks with no practical experience going out into the world. It’s the gems who bother to work our butts off for the real deal experience (i.e., you and I) that will hopefully someday lead our respective industries.

    Okay, I think I stopped making sense somewhere in the second paragraph. That’s what I get for commenting at 5 a.m…..either way, I am HONORED to be a smartphone snob in your post. Keep up the great work!

  3. I see both sides of the argument. Did you know that there are lots of school now that don’t even teach cursive. My sister who is only two years younger than I am can barely sign her name. No matter how much technology we have access to we have to remember the basics.

  4. Another example I know everyone has encountered (unless you’ve all but traded in cash for plastic) is people not knowing how to give change without a register or calculator.

  5. Phone numbers! I can only remember the phone numbers that came before speed dial.

    I can’t live without my iPhone. It has become a key tool in my life. But, I hear you. I still sketch out all my designs before working them up on a computer. When I used to ask our young new designers to do the same they’d give me blank looks. It took a bit but they all learned that you can get a germ of an idea out much more quickly that way. For me the creative process is much fast by hand and the formalizing process is much faster on the computer.

  6. I upgraded to a smart phone a few months ago. I love that I have the cattle and corn markets and news at the tip of my fingers. With today’s market volitility being without instant access to the CBOT, CME, and local cash bids would decrease my ability to market when I need to. If I have to treat a sick calf, I take a picture of the tag and send an instant message to myself of who was treated, when and what was givin no more scraps of paper (or the back of my leather glove) that get wet, smudged, lost or forgotten about.
    I can only remember 3 phone numbers, my hubbys cell, my cell, and my parents old home number (which is no longer valid)!!! I wish I could still remember numbers before the day of speed dial and contact lists….

  7. Fabulous post, Ryan. I also currently have a “dumbphone”. Other than the occasional text to Twitter, I only use it for calling/texting. Much of my choice in using smartphone technology (if I had it) is limited by the spotty cell service where I live. I think technology is great, and I am a huge proponent of it. However, I agree with you – many skills are being lost or not taught at all because of that technology. Having so much reliance on it is something I find a little frightening at times.

  8. I like how well you carried the thought past just smart and dumb phones. We do face larger questions of how we depend on technology, and how we use it to help us. And as technology constantly changes, the balancing act continues.

  9. Great post Ryan. I say as long as you can survive with out it- more power to you! I myself would be helpless with out all of my technology 😉 I can still write in cursive and can count change though, so I think I’m still good. I also think buying a phone just to have it, and not investing the time in learning how to use it to it’s fullest is a complete waste.

  10. Ryan, While I see your point, I am an old guy and I need all the help I can get. I use an Android phone to do all sorts of things. For one, I have forms (Google Docs) that I can fill in for the condition of a hay field or how many bales I made or who has called and reserved hay. I can also use the calculator/converter to figure how many acres per hour I’m mowing. I wouldn’t want to go back to the old way. I think you kids should use a pencil and paper 😉

    Sam Durbin

    1. Thanks Sam. I’m willing to bet you know how to do it on paper though. So many in my generation wouldn’t know what to do without their electronics telling them those figures.

  11. Ryan, I agree with lots of your points. The question for me becomes when is technology a help or a hindrance? Different jobs, lifestyles, etc mean different tools. I don’t think all farmers need a smartphone — but I think they would find uses for them if they were so inclined & got a smart phone. Not good or bad, just a different choice. As far as you go, you are blowing away most of the people who think smartphones are the be all end all. I’ve never seen it as a drawback in how you access social media. So use your phone all you want. I’ll be glad to get the phone call, texts or tweets no matter what tools you decide to use in sending them!

    1. Thanks Janice. I never expected everyone to agree with me, because some people’s jobs are based on electronic communication. And if it were not for the rest of the world, I’d probably leave my phone at the house most days. But I do hope we kinda take a step back and look at our use. Are we using our gadgets to help us with our work or letting them do our work for us?

  12. I am always reflecting on where we are going with new technology. Most of what I see in technology is giving us a place to spend more money on gadgets which give us more tasks to do. In the long run is taking up more of our time, not less. The jobs technology does make easier, winds up cutting a human out of a job, so where do we draw the line? Do we really want a society where everyone is sitting at home tweeting while everything is automated for us?

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