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Surviving in 2012 sans Smartphone: Lessons from Madison Avenue

Matilda Schieren

I have a confession to make: I’ve never sent a text message.

I’m the proud owner of a dumb (as in, the antithesis of smart) Samsung flip phone. There are second graders with more tablet experience than me.

I’ve never Foursquared or Pinned anything or FaceTimed. I cannot type with my thumbs, and it has nothing to do with thick fingers. I’ve engaged in a couple rounds of Angry Birds on devices that weren’t my own and found it chomps less thrilling than Ms. Pac-Man on my (still fully functional) Game Boy Color.

Truth be told, I haven’t gone much farther than first base in my relationship with “modern technology” (a term which is about as easy to explain as Ron Artest’s name change).

I assume that, in the PR world, this is blasphemous. How could anyone stay up-to-the-second with news across all wires, blogs and pay-walled

newspaper sites, how could anyone build rapport with reporters geographic regions away, how could anyone retain clients without at least a basic personal experience with the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system (or something close)?

Well, thanks to Twitter, I’m not completely living in the dark ages, but without accessibility to CNN breaking news during my Metra commute or when I’m lying in bed doing nothing but fall asleep to “Friends” reruns, I suppose my world is only dimly lit.

And there’s something to be said for making life work without being plugged in all the time.

How do I know this?

Mad Men, obviously.

If Don Draper could successfully manage Lucky Strike, Clearasil and Playtex accounts in a time of no cell phones, no e-mail and no LinkedIn (not to mention a time when it was atypical not to smoke inside the office), then I truly (and, admittedly, somewhat naively) believe anyone can. I am fully aware that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is fictitious and exists solely to make our Sunday evenings more bearable, but it still stands on a historical, factual foundation.

I’m not anti-technology. I’m just pro-1960. I’m not advising any firm to rip the Dells from their desktops this very minute, chuck the tablets off of the nearest balcony or bid Gmail adieu. For all too many reasons, this just isn’t feasible in 2012. What I am advocating, however, is an appreciation of old-fashion. No matter how electronic the world becomes, the words “public relations” still infer that humans are involved, and I think that people (even today) inherently crave a level of intimacy in their communication—which you can’t always achieve through an e-mail blast.

In this new media cyclone perpetuated by Outlook’s send/receive schedule, Google alerts and (insert social media platform here) updates, perhaps we could all benefit from occasionally disconnecting from our devices—and realizing how much more connected we become without them.