I no longer perceive smartphones as being monsters under children's beds.
Progress has triumphed, as it always does. My sense of realism has allowed me to accept that communication is no longer what it was. It is what it is, and, one day, will be what it will be.
When I watch my kids text their friends—their necks strained toward the floor, giving them a profile of a lower-case "r", like a lamplight with a loose shoelace—it no longer makes me grit and spasm.
"Why don't you just call them?!" I used to shout.
"What the difference?!" They would answer.
I didn't really know what the difference was.
Perhaps it was through watching reruns of Downton Abbey I realized that, in 1915, even the simple telephone was a modern horror.
Present day, when it came to texting and "Facetiming" (that word still evokes images of something one gets done at a spa), I was the problem.
What was it then? Why, despite meditation and a determined sense of acceptance, did social media habits still drive me crazy?!
I pondered that question.
And here are the answers :
You can't leave it alone.
- Every blip, bleep, blap and zing draws your attention. Spoonfuls of dinner are interrupted by a, "Can I just check that?"
- Movie night is disrupted by "I'm just going to answered this." Followed by "What did I miss?"
I don't want to rewind. I was paying attention. The director intended for this movie to have flow, to be watched uninterrupted...down in front, dammit!
- Intimate discussions about favourite foods and memorable vacations are hindered by your Google searches and YouTube videos of facts that "must" be verified and clips that "must" be seen.
Your must-ing is making this get-together downright musty.
You forget it's on.
- The alarm is set for school days. But, today, there was no school, but we were awakened anyway. That is why I didn't want a dog - because sleep-ins.
- The battery is low, and it is calling to us at 3am from somewhere under a sofa cushion. Which cushion? We don't know. However, in the middle of the night, it is mostly likely under the cushion furthest from the bedroom, necessitating a series of shin-bruising stumbles into ottomans and doorways.
- You promised not to answer your device during a meal. But, you didn't actually turn it off. So:
"This steak is delic-" bleep!
"Remember I said I would speak to my boss today? Well I did. She said, 'If there is one thing I want to make absolutely clear, it's-'" blap!
"I took the pregnancy test and shockingly I-" zing!
People reach out, with nothing to say.
- How does one answer a text which reads "Hey! What's up?!"
Do I write "Nothing." Or, do you really want the whole story?
- Or the Facetime call (do we call them "calls?", or are they "connections?" or "digitizations?") so that we may witness the cat curled curled up next to the bird, who is asleep on the dog, who is asleep on your Ugg, which you just Pintrested. Ugh.
Having something to say should be a prerequisite for any Facetime/Skype/Hangout interaction. Your snoring husband doesn't count. Even a "hysterical" snoring husband loses his pizzazz after I've been watching him for thirteen seconds on my thirteen inch screen.
"Say something," as the song goes, or, "I'm giving up on you."
You can't figure the thing out, so they end up texting me.
I fault no one for not understanding technology. I fault no one for choosing to avoid technology. The fault lies with the person who understands tech halfway, but chooses the deadly-tech-combo of not being curious to learn more, and yet still using it freely.
It produces weird tech math:
1) You reach out to them.
2) They respond to you.
3) You are unaware of, and/or cannot retrieve the text/voice/email message.
4) So they reach out to me.
5) I am now in charge of this project.
This is where old tech trumps new tech.
Just call them.
Use the wall phone and a pen and a wall calendar.
That way we techies are left out of it.
You're at my house...to see me.
Don't know much about history.
Don't know much biology.
Don't know much about a science book.
Don't know much about the French I took...
- Sam Cooke
...And you don't need to brush up on all of that while I'm offering you homemade dates wrapped with bacon, pesto bruschetta, and a glass of that 20 year port you love.
We see each other semi-annually. Put. It. Down. And...
...please talk to me
Won't you please talk to me
We can unlock this misery
Come on, come talk to me
- Peter Gabriel
"Why aren't they answering?!" Anxiety
12:04 pm - Text sent.
12:08 pm - Check for response (while pouring coffee)
12:10 pm - Check for response (while ironing with one hand)
12:16 pm - Check for response (while sitting on the toilet)
12:41 pm - Check for response (while driving)
12:50 pm - Check for response (while yelling at your kids to put down the iPad and go play outside.)
12:56 pm - Check for response (and become angry that they are not answering.)
13:04 pm - Check for response (becoming worried now.)
13:08 pm - Send the follow up, "Hello??!!" text.
13:14 pm - Send a text to another friend asking, "Have you heard from Rachel lately? I'm worried"
13:22 pm - Begin to imagine scenarios when you have wronged Rachel, giving her cause to unfriend, and generally hate you.
I love my phone. It is my communications tool, my research tool, and a tool for entertainment and diversion.
The difference between the land line and the smart phone—the difference between then and now—is: the "now" device has become an unabashed dictator.
It dictates the user's behaviour, often in countersense to the user's wishes or intentions.
It behaves similarly with the...usee (pronounced yoo-zee), the person with whom the user is supposed to be interacting.
I cannot recall a previous innovation which, along with pleasure, brought so much imbalance, anxiety and unwanted distraction.
Of course, we humans created the machines. There are no ghosts, only programmers and users. If there are phantoms within these pods and pads, they exist only to create the illusion that we will be somehow disadvantaged if we cut the tether.
We are worried that, if we walk away, not only will we no longer be part of an important social media collective, but the device itself may whisper to us from the dark,
"Where are you going? You're not leaving me alone, are you?"
The apparatus is the clown on the chair during heat lightning. It smiles when the lights flicker. And, when it suddenly goes missing, we become frightened.
We spend so much time searching online for what we might be missing, I worry we miss too much by not lifting our chins and searching for what was there all along.
By the way, feel free to take 2 minutes away from whatever you're doing to share this link.