It was only 2 1/2 years ago that I entered the arena of smartphone technology. A lifelong late bloomer, I had clung tenaciously to my flip phone and, truth told, I only had had one of those under protest. I would have been perfectly happy living out the rest of my days with a land line.
My philosophy has always been, “Don’t call me. I’ll call you”, so what did it matter if I missed a call? My experience growing up with a landline was that, if a person called you and you weren’t there, they always called back. My entire childhood, neither I nor anyone in my family ever missed a call we were meant to have.
In those halcyon Flip Phone Days, when I wanted to be unencumbered by my purse in the summertime, I popped the fliphone into my bra (I dressed to the left), making me a modern-day Mae West/Maxwell Smart.
The day I got my first iPhone, however, my life changed. Whereas previously I would have been content to go without knowing something immediateley, or perfectly happy with just not knowing at all and residing in the mystery, now I had to google my query for immediate response.
If an alien in the future were to encounter my iPhone in a time capsule and have a look through my pictures, they would conclude that this particular Earthling was morbidly self-absorbed.
In our current Age of Mediocrity, where every mundane and inane detail of one’s life is fodder for immediate public knowledge, I confess to you – here and now – that there are hundreds of selfies on my storage. With my flip phone, I couldn’t have cared less about having pictures of myself. Matter of fact, very few even existed. I lived my life somatically, taking in and registering experiences in my body, my memory, my soul.
Now, for some unknown reason, I was always taking pictures. My nephews noticed it when I visited them in Ohio last month. “Aunt Sandi, why are you always taking so many pictures of us now? You didn’t used to be like that.”
(Full Disclosure: I can’t blame my smartphone for this. What happened was that from one year to the next, I realized that my nephews were never again going to be swept up in my arms and swung around. And that they no longer jumped up and down when they saw me after a long absence. Or that they cared anymore about accompanying me to the airport so that they, like I, could squeeze out one last moment together. No, the little brats had gone and grown up way too fast and I was full of regret over not having spent more time with them and wondering if I’d had any real impact on their lives. The picture-taking was a way for me to “make up for lost time”, to capture and hold as many current-day memories as I could. )
When I taught ESL (English to international students), we read about cell phone addiction and compulsive checking habits, which I have now fully embraced. In a way, I feel enslaved to the thing. I’ve got the new iPhone 7S (a monolith of a contraption that could easily cause carpal tunnel if you’re not careful). It needs constant plugging in and it feels like having to nourish an endlessly hungry baby. Is there an outlet nearby? How much more time do I have on this thing? Should I bring my charger along? What if the battery dies on my drive home? (As I write this, I realize what a pain in the ass the thing has become. It’s practically like a forced marriage.)
Living in Los Angeles several years back, I read the New York Times every day – 7 days a week – the paper version, delivered to my house. A visitor once derisively remarked upon my 3-foot-high stack of archived newspapers (I’ve always had difficulty discarding the NY Times), “That’s a lot of paper waste. Why don’t you get the electronic version?”
My lips twisted into a sneer and I matched his derision and chased it with some superiority to boot. “I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t hold a newspaper in my hands.”
Now….guess what? Shhhh….Please…. don’t tell anybody….
I have the Washington Post app on my phone and it is from that app that I read the news everyday. And I don’t miss holding a newspaper at all, in case you’re wondering.
On the rare occasion where I walk out of the house without my phone, I feel free. I treasure those times and consider leaving the phone at home forever. Or on the front seat of my car with the windows open and the charger cuddled up next to it – hoping.
But then I think about what my life would be like without my iPhone. I wouldn’t have been able to take a video of my nephew tying his tie on his high school graduation day last month. Nor would I have the video that captured him all grown up and walking around his new college campus alone at the end of a long day of orientation, spent in the supportive company of his mother and me. I wouldn’t have the video of his mother’s bittersweet speechlessness at realizing that her firstborn is all grown up and will be starting college in August. Nor would I have documentation of her 50th birthday that occurred in the same whirlwind week of Spencer’s high school graduation and his college orientation.
As I write this, I realize that I’m thankful for my iPhone. In so many ways, my life has been enhanced by it. I hate reading but I sure do a lot of reading on my iPhone. Probably the coolest feature of late was the first time I experienced Messenger and lived in real life what was only a Jetsonian fantasy 50 years ago. And I know that because I watched it on tv.
I’ll always remember the day Steve Jobs died – October 5, 2011. I was in a coffee shop in Dallas and was drawn to the sad news on the flat-screen tv. My heart sank deep before I called the attention of everyone there, and, together, we raised our mugs and honored the man who had brought into reality all of these things which were once only a dream.