Even more impressive than having the flashiest it technology, is paying someone to work that technology for you. Sure, having an iPhone (or whatever) before anyone else is something people brag about. It not only shows a certain level of affluence, but it also demonstrates some with-it-ness. But the real elites don't even have to think about technology. Take Woody Allen, for example, who in a Wall Street Journal interview yesterday said he has never once sent or received an email. He has an iPhone, of course, but his assistant works it for him. "Yes, I do carry an iPhone because I want to have a phone. But more important, on the iPhone my assistant put a few hundred jazz records, and when I travel and practice the clarinet I used to take all this equipment with me," he told WSJ's Rachel Dodes. You see, the highest of all tech status symbols, is not having to use technology at all.
Though we like to turn our gadgets into fashion accessories, spending sometimes lots of money to add cool kid cases, stripped down, technology is a chore. Even the fun parts require some sort of grunt work. Back to Allen, his iPhone represents pure leisure time. He doesn't have to do any of the annoying uploading or anything. He just presses buttons. "Now, I just have earphones and I can practice the clarinet effortlessly with this thing. I have never sent an email in my life. I never received an email. I have two buttons I can touch—the weather and the Huffington Post," he said.
One could attribute this to Allen's old age or eccentricity, but he's not the only elite forgoing the technology part of his technology. What about all those celebrities who eschew the stresses of Twitter, employing ghost writers for their Twitter accounts? (Ahem: Ashton Kutcher.) They get all the benefits of Twitter -- Internet fame -- without using the service. Or, the countless other hip artsy types who have complicated relationships with their phones. Wynona Rider told GQ she was still "figuring out" how to use her iPhone. And claimed she never uses the Internet in an Elle profile. Liker Rider, famous (BlackBerry-owning and -loving) technophobe Jonathan Franzen scoffs at technology. "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction," he wrote in The Guardian.
Sure, there are all sorts of philosophical reasons to forego the latest gizmos, but the bottom line is this: these people can afford to do so. Emailing, browsing the web, loading a phone with apps, movies, and music -- all of these things are basically grunt work. In a pre-Internet age, people of means paid others to write their letters, run their errands and set up their home electronics. Even we, who love the Internet more than the average person, associate certain aspects of Internetting with chores. Our devices make life easier, leaving more time for the fun things. But, even on an iPhone, life is a chore. But, we can't afford to do that. So, as long as we have to carry around work computers in our pockets, we will get the prettiest, easiest to use devices and convince ourselves looking things up on Yelp is fun. Meanwhile, Woody Allen will hear about important news from his assistant.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.