It may look like an iPhone, but the NoPhone doesn’t text, call, email, FaceTime, or do anything at all. Scratch that: It does do something. It points out the technological dependency and decaying social values that are destroying the world, one cell phone at a time. “Phone addiction is real. And it’s everywhere,” the NoPhone Kickstarter reads. “It’s ruining your dates. It’s distracting you at concerts. It’s disrupting you in movie theaters. It’s clogging up sidewalks.” So charged as mindless, inattentive smartphone addicts, we can now begin our recovery by clutching a piece of phone-shaped plastic and engaging with our “direct environment”—you know, sidewalks.
Socrates warned us about cell phone addicts more than 2,000 years ago. “They will be tiresome company,” he wrote. “[They] will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves… They will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing.” Granted, he was actually talking about the effects of the radical new, must-have device that was the Egyptians’ fancy written words. But more or less the same thing, really.
Socrates’ warning goes for pretty much every technological advance in communications: the printing press (it would create an information overload); the radio (an invasion of home privacy that released harmful emissions); the television (violence, sex, brains turning to mush, etc.); and of course, the Internet (see: E-mails “hurt IQ more than pot”; Is Google Making Us Stupid?). So, there isn’t really anything new or noteworthy about the techno-panic over cell phone use. What is new is the solution of buying a hunk of plastic as a placebo.
Because Kickstarter doesn’t allow fake products, even ones that provide a satirical point about modern technology, the NoPhone is actually very real. And what’s more, lots of people want it. At the time of this writing, there are 626 backers who have provided $12,552—more than double the original goal—to receive something that looks like a phone for the sole purpose of not using a phone. Backers pledging $12 get the NoPhone; $18 gets you the NoPhone with the “selfie upgrade” (a mirror that sticks to the phone—how cute); and donations above $20 get backers additional NoPhones, which they can use to be additionally annoying in making their point that cell phone addiction is bad.