I fantasize about chucking my iPhone off a cliff. Sharp rocks split its screen as it tumbles into oblivion. I’m certain that I would feel better without it. But when my fantasy came true and my phone fell in a toilet I’d just pooped in, I frantically fished it out, cleaned it off and rushed it to the Apple Store for a replacement.
I am disturbed by the attachment I have to my phone. If I am in its proximity, I feel like Frodo carrying the One Ring around his neck, consumed in its power. My phone is not mine; rather, I belong to it. It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before I fall asleep. I can’t make it through an hour-long class without checking my alerts at least once. As the day wears on, I develop an anxiety about my battery percentage. I go home just to charge it, or at the very least, I bum a charger off a friend like a cigarette.
Smart phones are supposed to be tools that make our lives easier. I do use my phone to look up facts, check train times and find biking directions. But that’s not where my battery goes. It goes to the moments where I post an Instagram photo and refresh six times in the next three minutes to check for likes. It goes to the eight times I toggle mindlessly between the hourly and daily forecast on my weather app. It goes to the articles I skim and the time I spend rearranging the icons on my home screen.
My battery goes to Facebook. How does Facebook get to me to spend so much time reading updates from people whose daily activities I don’t give a shit about? Why do I know so much about the job search of that guy I met at Borders in 2008, or about my high school friend’s ex-boyfriend’s cat? The most shameful part is how much time I spend staring at my own profile. I become obsessed with the timeline of my own life, and what it looks like to my 1,000 friends. But to what end?
When I’m in my phone, I’m not in the world anymore. Yes, I learn things from my constant connection to the Internet. But I don’t experience anything. Sometimes when I become depressed, all I need to do to feel better is leave my phone in the house and go a day without it.
So I do try to resist. If I can’t leave my phone at home, I uninstall my Facebook app, or change the password to something impossible to remember, and log out. I let my battery die. I bury it in the bottom of my backpack. I hide it in the living room while I sleep.
It sucks that I need it so much. Certain services like Uber are only available on smartphone apps. Without a cell phone, I’d never be the first to claim tickets to see a famous person speak on campus, and I’ll never have the Fastest//Fingers//First when the YDN sends out pitches. I can’t even fathom how people made plans before cell phones. If I didn’t have a cell phone, how would I find someone to go with me to Woad’s?
I’m worried for myself, and I’m worried for us. It’s untenable to think that our attachment to smartphones will ever loosen. I do have faith that people are bigger than these mere inventions, but when we stare at a sunset through a Mayfair filter, or zone out from a party to send a Snapchat, we’re only getting smaller.
Sometimes when I look up from my phone it feels like I’m seeing the world for the first time. Seeing it the way it’s supposed to be seen. But I always look back down.