This post was written by my good friend Peter, who might just be one of my favorite people ever. He is smart. He is witty. He is wonderfuly sarcastic. He also happens to be a professional composter. If I had to describe him, I’d say he was a hybrid of my dad and my husband…which I genuinely mean as a compliment. Peter’s blog is stimulating and thought-provoking. Plus, unlike my blog, reading it won’t kill your brain cells. Go give it a read…you’ll thank me.
Therapeutic confessions of an unlikely iPhone addict
I hate being trendy. I actively resist taking part in social or technological fads. If people line up en masse to purchase it or watch it at an unmentionable hour of the night, I want no part of it.
The Hunger Games? Yeah, I play that every day at around lunchtime. That’s about it, though.
Pinterest? Don’t know anything about it.
My friends can tell you that my VHS collection is about three times the size of my DVD collection. Until about a year-and-a-half ago, I used one of those TVs that has a built-in DVD/VCR combo. What a remarkable invention. Why don’t modern televisions have those?
Blu-ray, you ask? That’s still a foreign term to me.
I never used a cell phone until my junior year in college. That was 2003. Listening to sorority girls from the Chicago suburbs chat on their phones with obnoxious ring tones about what bars they’d be visiting that night was all the sanctimonious justification I needed to vow that I’d never own such a ridiculous device myself.
Even when I finally did, I rationalized it to myself under the premise that I needed it for my job as a news reporter at the college newspaper. The display on my first phone looked like it might have come from a Casio watch, circa 1985.
Yes, it was fairly primitive. But it was also a slippery slope, not to mention the beginning of some serious insight into my psychological condition.
I suppose I avoid participating in trends — or, yes, it could be argued, keeping up with the times — because I want to portray myself as a nonconformist. Part of my fragile psyche needs to exercise some measure of self-righteous indignation, often as a method of personal assurance and validation: “Well, like, I don’t need to depend on silly, materialistic trends to find fulfillment inmy life. So, um, there!”
It’s a great defense mechanism, of course, until I succumb to the very phenomenon I worked so hard to turn my nose up at for so long.
I used to dismiss the iPhone as a stupid toy. A phone is supposed to make and receive calls and texts, I’d proclaim proudly. I don’t need all these other dumb features that everybody else will use just to make themselves look cool and important.
The narrative sounded so noble that I even had myself fooled.
So, of course, on New Year’s Eve, I went out and got an iPhone. Not the latest and greatest iPhone — only a 3GS. But an iPhone regardless.
Don’t get me wrong — I spent a long period of time rationalizing again. I worked overtime to convince myself that I wouldn’t become a hypocrite or a sellout if I did it. Your current phone is so antiquated that you can’t even look at pictures that people send you, I reassured myself. You don’t want to do this, but it’s clear what direction society is headed. Plus, you qualify for a free upgrade under your plan, right? So you won’t spend a dime lining the coffers of the big, bad Apple Empire.
And thus it began.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If that’s true, perhaps the road to iPhone addiction is paved with pious ones?
At a social gathering last night, I suddenly became uncomfortably aware of just how much I’ve devolved since smugly dismissing the device as one whose allure everyone else falls prey to — but certainly not me.
In the presence of good, friendly, entertaining, welcoming company, I nonetheless caught myself checking, with a frequency of about every 10 minutes or so, the following:
- My email (I’m certainly important enough that someone else has sent me an email in the last seven minutes, right?)
- My Facebook feed (I mean, that’s a given. I can’t be kept oblivious as to others’ important social developments as I drink wine with my own friends, right?)
- CNN (What if something earth-shattering has happened since my last visit? I’d never know!)
- KING5 (I needed to know what was going on in Seattle; after all, I was in Tacoma, and that’s, like, the other side of the world, or something.)
- The weather back home (Is the Midwest still experiencing that epic heat wave?)
- Redbox (What new movies are available?)
- Netflix (Are you still really at this party?)
Speaking of Facebook and social developments, here’s another confession I’m pained to utter: I’ve started “checking in” at places. Six months ago, I would have vociferously condemned the practice. Anyone who does that is working just a little too hard to convince everyone that he goes to awesome places with awesome people, I would have said.
But nowadays, it certainly doesn’t hurt to share with others if I’m trying a fun new microbrewery, right? Especially if I’m there with a fun group of my peeps, right?
Certainly I’m not that guy, am I? Certainly I haven’t turned into — heaven forbid — a Facebrag, right? (Side note: In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Whenever confronted with a tough case of cognitive dissonance, Urban Dictionary is the first source I consult in my search for answers.)
OK — so I’m trying to get the check-in habit under control. But the issue is far deeper than that. There’s a much harsher reality I’ve been forced to reckon with as the owner of an iPhone: I use it as a crutch against my social insecurities.
Have you ever been with a group of people and encountered an awkward or uncomfortable pause in conversation? How do a lot of them inevitably respond? They pull out their phones and start playing with them. Yep, that’s me now.
The underlying message? “Well, if no one else is gonna talk, I’m gonna act distracted on my phone so I don’t get the blame for it.” Or, perhaps, “This is just too weird. I’m gonna look at my phone so I don’t have to make eye contact with any of you who can’t think of something to say.”
Or how about when you’re waiting alone at a restaurant or other venue for someone who hasn’t arrived yet? You don’t want to look like the awkward person who is waiting by himself, staring into space because he’s got nothing else to do and doesn’t know anyone there. So you pull out your phone.
The sad thing is that I used this tactic even before I had an iPhone — but in those days, I had to simply pretend that my phone provided an adequate distraction, since, as I mentioned above, it could do nothing aside from calling and texting. (Admittedly, staring down at a 1990s-era phone, pretending to look at an app or a website that didn’t exist did get old pretty quickly.)
Sometimes, my iPhone comes out even when group conversation isn’t sputtering. I typically have two reasons for doing that: 1) I hate small talk, and I suck at it, so if there’s a practical way to escape it, I will; and 2) I find a certain degree of shameful self-gratification in simply looking important. Even if I haven’t received a phone call or text message from anyone for several hours, there’s something validating about appearing to others as though you’re responding to one — whether you really are or not.
So, it occurs to me now — perhaps I’ve come full circle.
I used to ridicule the iPhone and the behaviors of its users as a sort of “I’m-above-that-type-of-
Now, I embrace and participate in the very behaviors I once scorned — again, as a defense mechanism. Against my insecurities. Against my perceived weaknesses and liabilities. Against awkward situations.
Is it time for an intervention, perhaps? Time to pitch this soul-sucking device and go back to the days of a phone that required me to press the button three times if I wanted to type an “F” or an “L”?
I don’t think I’ll go that far. But I do know that gone are the days when I play the “that-would-never-be-me” card. After this experience forced me to eat crow, I realize that that’s a risky mentality to espouse.
And, for the record, I fully intend to see “The Hunger Games” and read the books. In my typical fashion, I’m simply going to wait until it’s just not so dang…popular.
Ditto with Pinterest.
Heck, someday I might even buy a Blu-ray player.
Told you he was good. Read more on Peter’s blog!