I got my first cell phone for Christmas in 2003. It was a Nokia 3585i, a relic of a bygone era for a number of reasons. At the same time, I am certain there are features that very few Simple Mobile customers utilized. Despite being a prepaid phone, it supported the Nokia PC Suite. I purchased a DKU-5 cable off eBay and did things on my first cell phone that only became commonplace a decade later. I found packs of mobile Java applets around the internet, and would upload them to see which ones worked. Few did, but I did manage to get a handful working. I had custom ringtones I made out of MIDI files I found around the internet, edited using the copy of Cakewalk Plasma I can’t part with. Of course, the cable allowed me to use the phone as a dial-up modem as well. Though I used the Nokia suite natively for my first phone or two, I ultimately ended up using its capabilities to sync my contacts with Outlook – and later still, with ActiveSync.
I am one of very, very few people who can say that I have never lost my contacts, I have never had to type a contact into my phone twice, and I have copied my contacts over to every phone I have ever owned – fifteen of them, if my memory is completely accurate.
Taking a step back, I am perplexed at my own behavior with respect to my contacts. My contacts list is closely guarded – I stopped syncing them with Facebook over five years ago, I have not synced them with Google (actively defending against them using Xprivacy) or iCloud, and only one or two mobile apps get access to my contacts list. They are synced with an Exchange server and are stored locally. I fiercely protect the contact information of my friends.
And yet, it is a set of data I refuse to maintain.
I have 309 contacts. I stopped counting after my 100th person from whom I am estranged for one reason or another. I cannot identify or describe eight of them. Nearly two dozen are for women who have since been married, yet I have not replaced their maiden names. Four are dead. Another four might be. Nearly half likely contain outdated numbers which do not correspond with the individual to whom the number is assigned. On the flip side, I very rarely add numbers to my contacts anymore. I am far more apt to do a search in my text messages or rely on remembering a few digits of the number, leaving my call log to fill in the blanks. Even my own mother’s phone number remains a member of the call log.
And in writing this, it’s possible I have figured out why.
My contacts list is not terribly useful as a list of people I contact. It is a list of people who had a small part in my life – enough to commit their number to my phone, but not enough to remove the awkwardness of the conversation that would undoubtedly transpire. Perhaps it is a different person entirely, and I could simply write it off as a ‘wrong number’. Perhaps it is the very person specified in the Contacts entry, and the conversation would be a minute long as I realize those people probably do not miss me. Darrell and Gabby will never answer me back, and it’s been three years since I’ve had any contact with Zoe. Maybe it’s a feeling that removing them from my Contacts is like removing the last reminder of them. Maybe I don’t add contacts anymore because I have developed a severe issue with permanence. Even the people who have stuck around for a few years and have long since warranted being added as a contact are still difficult for me.
Then again, maybe it’s because the people that really stick around get their numbers recorded where they need to be. Acquaintances and clients get contacts. The people in my life I call so often I can recite their numbers off the top of my head? They don’t need one.