Sometimes in life, you realize that you’re just done with something. It’s over. Doesn’t matter how close you were, doesn’t matter what your friends say, doesn’t matter what the split will cost you. Once you break that bond, it’s over. I’ve had this experience a number of times in life now; sometimes with people, sometimes with ideas, sometimes with habits. I have broken up with television, with Facebook, with Twitter, with arguing about current events, and with beer. (This isn’t just a positive thing, of course — I have also abruptly broken up with jogging, with writing, with people, and with jobs.)
This time, it’s my smartphone.
I think we’re done.
We had fun at the start. What a magic device this was. The world in the palm of your hand! No fears of missing an important call! No torment from my own treacherous imagination over being unreachable. Texting with a “real” keyboard, instead of the letters on a phone pad! Pictures! Directions! Magic!
Slowly, though, it’s stopped being a magic little thing that makes life better and started being a hideous little attention-vacuum that makes me miss everything. It’s painful to look around a restaurant and see ¾ of the room on phones. Landmarks are seen through phone screens. Events are filmed and shared with the absent, rather than experienced with those present. I can be reached (interrupted) by any person at any time, and by orders of magnitude do those intrusions outweigh the important moments for which I needed to be reachable. In fact, I can’t think of one call where I thought, “Thank god for this smartphone,” since I got the thing.
I don’t know if the Great Social Experiment is nearly over, but it could be. I am a late adapter to new technology, but I make up for it by being an early dismisser: I tend to burn out on things slightly ahead of the curve. I wish I could imagine a world in which craning one’s neck over a personal screen in public was treated with the same contempt as farting or smoking in the same venue.
The AT&T people are not taking this well. They’re reacting to my request for a flip phone like Philip Morris reacted to the Surgeon General’s warning. I am aware this means that within a few years AT&T will be selling a “privacy phone” that costs $300 plus $100/month for the privilege of having what is functionally a flip-phone from 2004. For the moment, though, the training classes have not prepared the sales people for a request to trade down. Way down. They don’t know what to do when I ask for a non-smart cellphone. It’s as though I walked into the hospital on a $100,000 prosthetic robot leg made of titanium and holograms and asked if I could trade it for a peg carved of whalebone. They’ve all but requested a psychiatric evaluation. They’re not that concerned, I believe; they just don’t know what else to do.
Maybe I’m overreacting. I just don’t think the thing has brought me that much. I have read a hundred thousand articles on the phone, but none I remember. My posture is worse. I have trouble concentrating long enough to read books. I get frustrated with myself for how easy it is to get lost in it. I have sent uncountable texts, but only a dozen people matter that much to me. I can read my email, but I don’t get much that’s worth it. The instant gratification of the phone has come to seem less like the world at my fingertips and more like me at the beck and call of marketing. I can take quick pictures, but they’re mostly of my cats, and without social media, I don’t know why I take so many. I can peruse more options for routes or restaurants or entertainments, but I have in many cases replaced enjoying those things with worrying I missed something better.
So: We’re separating. 90 days. I’ll let you know if I feel better, or if I’m just getting into that “Everything was better in the old days!” demographic.
I wonder how many days the withdrawal lasts.