Smartphones are tools which fools fiddle with when they are around people that they don’t have the courage, or, the intellect, to converse with.

Mokokoma Mokhonoana, writer of thought-provoking aphorisms

My first handphone was the Motorola MicroTAC 1950, which I bought in 1993 for a whopping RM3,600. It could only make and receive phone calls and voice messages, but it was a big deal then as handphones were newly introduced to Malaysia.

A few years later, many affordable models were sold in the market, and my wife and children studying in secondary school each had a handphone. Later, the elder child learned to drive and drove from Ampang to Damansara Heights to study and Klang to work as lecturer. I stopped calling her handphone for fear that she might be distracted while driving.

When short messaging service (SMS) was introduced later, I found it a hassle to type the text as the same keys are used for several letters, unlike those on a screen in smartphones introduced later. Today, I would type and send a text over WhatsApp instead of making phone calls.

But some people do not take the trouble to send messages and prefer to make calls at their own convenience with little consideration for others or without realising a phone call often intrudes into the other person’s private time whether alone or with others, or cause distracted driving.

I do not answer calls from unknown numbers and have no interest in toying with scammers. Twenty years ago, I paid a four-figure sum to secure a nice phone number. Later, I had to block phone numbers that regularly send out messages offering nice numbers for sale.

I also blocked numbers from those who like to send pictures daily with nothing more than “Good Morning” or “Have a good day” and have exited from almost all chat groups. While latest important news can be shared, it is unnecessary to forward contents found online, especially videos, as they take up much storage space in the phone.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, my service as a freelance writer, trainer and consultant had been severely impacted and an end to the pandemic is still nowhere in sight.

The limited engagements during the movement control order (MCO) and subsequent conditional MCO and recovery MCO were enough to get me by this year, but the future looks bleak.

If there are too few engagements from next year, I plan to retreat and disengage from all my networks and start a new chapter in life. If so, my handphone would be of little use and I may stop using it altogether and remain incommunicado. From the onset, my handphone was switched off for about 12 hours daily as I prefer not to be disturbed at night.

Since 2013, I have used only one smartphone. It was a gift valued at RM2,200 from one of my corporate clients. It is still working well but requires more frequent charging and I never bothered using a power bank.

Should I stop using it next year, I will not be acquiring another smartphone and rely on my laptop as window to the world and email for communication. While many people are enslaved by their smartphones, I can live well without one.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.