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#42534 - 11/04/16 09:32 AM Cognitive Dissonance
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
When I'm out and about I marvel at the number of smartphones and other high-end devices (eg, MBPs and iPads) in the hands of otherwise apparently destitute individuals, young and old alike, who cannot clothe or feed or house themselves reasonably.

How can such individuals afford the purchase price of these devices, much less the ongoing costs of operation which are generally outrageous?!

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#42538 - 11/04/16 01:16 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: grelber]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I have worked with homeless men, women, and children here and next to the clothes on their back and food, a cell phone is one of the most essential things to their existence. When they fill out a job application one of the first questions is, "What is your phone number so we can call you if we have an opening?" It is the primary means of contacting the various community support agencies for food, medical care, and emergencies. Even the federal WIC (Women Infants & Children) programs hand out smartphones and vouchers for minutes to poor women with children as essential to the health and wellbeing of the mother and children.

Many years ago homeless agencies, shelters, etc. used to hand out pagers but that was only marginally satisfactory because it required around the clock telephone staffing at the agencies to handle the calls and that also depended on working public telephones — have you seen a working public phone recently? The agencies long ago switched to handing out cell phones. Many agencies (most?) also hand out vouchers for talk time.

The smartphones used by the homeless seem to have their genesis in one of three places...
  • A last hangover from better times (it is truly frightening how many hard working middle class men and women are one paycheck from being on the street)
  • The homeless individual has scrimped and saved to buy a smartphone as communications and to use to search the internet for jobs and resources. The half dozen computers at the shelter don't go far when shared among 350 shelter residents)
  • They are older model hand-me-downs from donors or were purchased at bargain prices from Goodwill or other similar "stores".
As for the iPads and MBPs, many school districts are issuing them to students as early as the first grade or even pre-school. In the end they are far more cost effective than printed text books and teacher's aids. In poorer areas schools often "loan" them to the parents or caregivers so they can keep in touch with what their children are doing in school. And don't forget older iPads and MBPs often end up at Goodwill also.

There is a strong and growing body of evidence that devices like smartphones, iPads, MBPs, etc. can be useful tools helping lift people out of poverty.

FWIW, I have been surprised by how many homeless I have encountered wearing really good, well made, and very expen$ive shoes or boots they have saved up to purchase. Given they may be on their feet 18 to 20 hours a day, every day, that does not appear to be an extravagance. It is more like smart survival.
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#42539 - 11/04/16 01:25 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: grelber]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
I am a writer. I am one of those "destitute people"--even though I have published a book that's sold 40,000 copies in three years, I make far less money than an anverage McDonald's worker.

The answer to your question is that a smartphone is cheaper than a computer, and a computer or similar device is the cost of entry into modern society. It is nearly impossible to function without one. That means when you're poor, you prioritize your smartphone sometimes above food, because the consequences of not having a smartphone are likely to be more severe for you than the consequences of skipping a meal.

When you're middle class, a smartphone is a luxury. When you're poor, it's a necessity. More and more government and social services rely on Internet forms. Jobs are increasingly applied for online. Sure, if you're lucky enough to live in the right place, you can go to the library and use their Internet to fill out your forms, and maybe set up a free email on Gmail, but without a phone, how do they contact you? And when you're poor, transportation can be expensive and extremely time consuming. If they need a new form, you can waste half the day taking the number 28 bus to the number 67 bus and transferring from there to the number 3 express that drops you off a fifteen-minute walk from the library so you can use their Internet, but good luck doing that if you're working three 20-hour-a-week jobs like many poor people do, or you have a kid to take care of, or both.

And yes, an iPhone 7 Plus on Verizon is expensive. A secondhand iPhone 5C with a chipped screen that you got from your sister-in-law and have a minimal data plan for is not.Landfill Android is even cheaper. (I have an old iPhone 6 with a defective battery; I could get the battery replaced for $100, but I haven't been able to yet. I am on a Canadian voice and data plan that costs about $35 a month and gives me free roaming and voice and data in the US. Americans routinely pay 3-4 times more money for their cell phone plans than the rest of the world; when I was on Verizon, I had European and Canadian friends flat-out refuse to believe me when I told them how much money the normal Verizon plan cost and what it got you.)

I've been well off. I've been poor. One of my experiences is that people who haven't been poor have no idea what it's like, and so are prone to judging the choices you make without any understanding of why you make them, even though they've never walked that mile in your shoes.

When you are poor, you become a master at prioritization and making tough choices. I recommend having faith in people's ability to make those choices, rather than armchair quarterbacking them from a position of ignorance. smile
_________________________
Photo gallery, all about me, and more: www.xeromag.com/franklin.html

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#42542 - 11/04/16 02:46 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: tacit]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Merci, joemikeb and tacit, for your cogent responses. Most appreciated.

I definitely was asking the question out of a position of ignorance — otherwise why ask? — but I don't consider that to be "armchair quarterbacking" of any negative sort.

While a number of situations don't apply in my bailiwick, your points are well taken and give me pause for further reflection.

By the bye, in my (definitely middle-class) neighborhood of ca 5 km diameter, incorporating 3 commercial centers, I know of at least 10 outdoor public telephones, all of which are functional, even at -40° C/F.

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#42543 - 11/04/16 04:04 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: grelber]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: grelber
By the bye, in my (definitely middle-class) neighborhood of ca 5 km diameter, incorporating 3 commercial centers, I know of at least 10 outdoor public telephones, all of which are functional, even at -40° C/F.

There is a large neighborhood of apartment complexes a couple of miles east of my definitely middle class neighborhood and a substantial number of those have subsidized units. There are several "convenience stores" in that neighborhood and most of those have phone booths somewhere on the premises. Notice I specified "phone booths" and not phones. The booths may be but there haven't been any phones in the booths for over a decade to my personal knowledge. The telephone company removed the phones because maintenance costs far exceeded any income. For a while some convenience store managers subsidized the actual phones as a customer service, but they gave that up when they realized the phones were going unused and were not drawing customers.

The store owners would like to have the booths removed, but they are the property of the telephone company and the telco has taken the position that it isn't worth the cost to remove them unless the store owners will pay them to do so. Catch-22 📞. On the other hand I thought I saw a blue British Police box the other day with flashing red light on its roof, but I must have been seeing things because it seemed to sort of faded out with a strange swooshing sound.

(All these new emojis in MacOS 10.12.2 beta and still no dope-slap, not even a Tardis 😡)
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#42544 - 11/04/16 04:17 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: joemikeb]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
... I specified "phone booths" and not phones.

That's what I meant too. However, the definition of booth has changed to mean essentially hoods covering phones — ie, no real privacy or protection from the weather.

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#42547 - 11/04/16 07:18 PM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: grelber]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: grelber
By the bye, in my (definitely middle-class) neighborhood of ca 5 km diameter, incorporating 3 commercial centers, I know of at least 10 outdoor public telephones, all of which are functional, even at -40° C/F.


You can place calls from a pay phone, if you have the correct change. Receiving calls, on the other hand, is more problematic.
_________________________
Photo gallery, all about me, and more: www.xeromag.com/franklin.html

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#42617 - 11/08/16 06:40 AM Re: Cognitive Dissonance [Re: joemikeb]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
I have worked with homeless men, women, and children here and next to the clothes on their back and food, a cell phone is one of the most essential things to their existence. When they fill out a job application one of the first questions is, "What is your phone number so we can call you if we have an opening?" It is the primary means of contacting the various community support agencies for food, medical care, and emergencies. Even the federal WIC (Women Infants & Children) programs hand out smartphones and vouchers for minutes to poor women with children as essential to the health and wellbeing of the mother and children.

I've listened to a lot of people bemoan the poor getting a subsidized/free "obamaphone", but I agree with the above that being reachable is a necessary step in getting yourself self-sufficient. Having to tell an employer they can reach you by calling your parents or your friend's phone does NOT leave an employer with a good impression regarding how easy it will be to get ahold of you if they hire you. Like calling you in to cover for someone that's gone, or where did you leave the keys to the equipment cage, or I can't make it in tonight can you come in and lock up. NOT having a phone can dramatically lower your value as an employee.

Not having your own phone can be a deal breaker. Now with cell phones, they don't even have to know that you're "between apartments". And that'll help you get out of that situation.

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