Thursday, January 15, 2009

What's Your Number?

I am not someone one who is nervous or afraid of technology. When I think about computers or the Internet, my mind does not automatically drift towards pictures like this...

... or this ... 

What I am more worried about are the simple things that go away with the more technology we have.  

I got a new phone last week, and by extension, a new phone number.  On one hand, the tasks around getting a new number are much easier.  I send out a mass email or create a facebook group, and ta-da, my job is done, and everyone is informed.  But on the other hand, when was the last time you remembered someone's phone number?  And I am not talking about a Tommy Tutone song.  I mean, actually remembered a 10- or 7-digit phone number.  If you were to name your five closest friends, could you tell me their phone numbers?  Without looking in your phone?  

Hopefully you can do better than me.  I can't even name one.  

Maybe this is not a big deal.  But what if (god forbid) your cell phone battery runs out?  What if you have to call someone collect on a pay phone?  You remember pay phones, right?

Aside from paranoid situations like that, there is something lost in no longer being forced to memorize someone's number.  I remember a time when, if you made a new friend, you had to put effort into remembering their digits.  If you knew someone's phone number, they were a part of your life.  If you did not know someone's number, there was probably a reason why.  

I had a friend recently who bragged about how many phone numbers he had stored on his blackberry.  Thousands, he exclaimed, as if proof of his likeability.  But how many of those numbers do you know, I wanted to ask.  Or, more importantly, how many of those thousands know your number?  

Maybe phone numbers have simply become obsolete: placeholders alongside your name in someone's cell, alphabetized in between the names and numbers of two strangers.  

Ironically enough, I set up the Passcode for my new iPhone the other day.  I guess it prevents strangers or nosy friends from getting into your phone.  But what are the four digits I chose for my Passcode?  The last four digits from my phone number growing up.  Because I knew those were four numbers I would never forget.  

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