Technology Betrayal – The “Pocket Dial”

Technology Betrayal – The “Pocket Dial”

Working to create a smartphone app that can be valuable for any and all ages has taught me a lot about the way people use technology. Older people tend to read every word on the screen, younger people navigate iPhones like they are an extension of their hand. Everyone interacts and benefits from tech in different ways.  

It has taught me more than anything that no matter how tech savvy someone is, or how experienced they are with an Apple or Android device, there are always minor issues that can cause major annoyances. One large, but also minor, inconvenience is the dreaded “pocket dial.” What initially originated as the “butt dial” the “pocket dial” is the wicked brother that seems to rear its head at the most inconvenient times.  

A wonderful pocket dial incident occurred recently during a handbells performance that my Church had a couple weeks ago. Our six ringers (that feature Tom and I) had been practicing and perfecting a piece for months that we were scheduled to perform in front of a live audience for the first time since the pandemic began.  

We were masked and socially distanced to get ready for this significant performance. After a flawless rehearsal, everyone was feeling great, albeit with a few nerves for being in front of an audience again. 

After a brief intro from our pastor at the beginning of the service, the six of us and our director walked in front of the congregation ready to perform. As we began to play, I experienced a fear that some people know all too well during church – my smartphone began to buzz.  

Now, I had made sure, even triple checked, to ensure that my phone was on silently beforehand. I did have a setting enabled where it would only ring if someone on my ‘favorites’ list had called, but who could possibly be calling me at 10:30 on a Sunday morning?  My favorites consist of friends and family who were either with me at church, or knew I would be at church.   

Somewhat frazzled, I made it through the live performance.  Afterwards, when I checked my phone, it turned out to be a call from Tom – who was playing bells with me at the exact time I got the call.  Somehow, he had pocket dialed my number while standing up, 6 feet away from me, with his hands up ready to play bells! 

Now this is an extreme case of the pocket dial but it goes to show how even the best technology can somehow betray us at the worst times. Whether it be a word doc not saving seconds before a deadline or the internet going down during an important interview. Our reliance on technology can make these annoyances seem severe.  

Imagine if Christopher Columbus had Google maps instead of relying on the stars and charts. If Paul Revere could simply start a groupchat to let everyone know that the British were coming. Or greater yet, if Jesus could livestream his teaching to everyone along the Mediterranean. This thought experiments help me take a step back and realize how fortunate we are to be living in this time of ultra-connection, even with the minor inconvenience of my father pocket dialing me for the third time in a week.  

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