I saw a motto once on a tombstone that said: “It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch” and I started to wonder if that’s why I love my cell phone so much. After all, its metal guts can be tweaked and tugged into immortality, while every human I know will, at some point, be made into moss.
My cell phone sits on my pillow when I’m sleeping. Its face is the first one I see in the morning, and its screen is the first thing I touch. My phone is the only witness to the fight I had with my mother and the texts I still sometimes exchange with my ex-boyfriend. Without realizing it, my relationship with my cell phone has become the most intimate one in my life.
Last week I left my phone at a bar and it got stolen by someone smart enough to pick up an iPhone instead of abandoning one. Distraught, I went to the store to get a new telephone and discovered it’d take me four days to get a new phone. While the AT&T salesman worked on the order form I stared blankly at my feet, unsure of how to pass the time without checking my Facebook on my phone.
The first few phone-less hours were freedom akin to the feeling you get after a breakup when you realize you don’t have to be faithful to anybody. I didn’t have to read any text messages. I had an acceptable excuse for not responding to emails. I was single, alone in the world without my 200 contacts and delighted by the idea of having to do something quaint, like ask a stranger what time it is.
Then the feeling ended. In my car I was forced to listen to the terrible CDs I’d made in high school because all my music was on my phone. I went grocery shopping and on the way back, I realized I couldn’t Google how long I could leave milk in the car.
I noticed how boring it was to sit through stoplights when you can’t check your text messages in the interim between red and green, and when I felt awkward at a party I had to strap on a smile because I didn’t have a screen to scroll through to avoid eye contact with strangers. In short, I was forced to participate in all the drudgery of reality without the distractions on
I think my smart phone made me stupid. Really, I do.
Having a phone makes it so easy to look up answers that I stop asking questions.
It makes it so easy to keep in touch with people that it’s less important to talk to people you can touch.
With the internet in my pockets, what good is it to trundle through the cumbersome pages of an encyclopedia? If you can text, why talk?
And it isn’t my phone’s fault. My phone, like a hammer or a nail, is a tool. Use that tool for its intended purpose and it’s good, but use that tool to nail someone’s ears to a wall and it’s no good at all.
My phone doesn’t willfully force me to replace tangible things in my life with cheap substitutes. It doesn’t adhere my fingers to its tiny screen and force me to waste time on my twitter feed, but that’s what I choose to do with it.
I avoid awkward conversation by sending long-winded texts. I don’t let my mind roam in the quiet hours before sleep because it’s easier to play tetris until tiredness takes me. I replace nightly prayers with podcasts. A world as wild as ours should not be limited to pockets.
When my new phone arrived I unwrapped the box like it was a short-wave radio to a lifeboat, a link back to the life that I knew before my cell phone went missing. But as I fingered the cold metal of my new iPhone 5s, it seemed to me cold and lifeless, a hollow box that was undeserving of my secrets and ill-equipped for intimacy.
I contemplated not turning it on. Then, with the slide of two-fingers on a still glass frame, I tapped back in.