On Phonelessness

Just the other day, I lost one of my most prized possessions: a $20 antique silver ring that I’ve worn pretty much every single moment since I first bought it about two and a half years ago. I was torn up and tore my house apart in my search for the ring, going over every last step I took since the time when I imagined it had slipped off. Luckily my search lasted just a little over 24 hours, but it was a painful 24 at that. I don’t know why I’m so attached to the ring or why it felt like the loss of something so much bigger, but now I cherish it in an entirely new way.

So I find it a bit laughable that I am so much less distraught over the loss of my iPhone. I didn’t actually loose it – I’m not that absentminded – but it has died, I think irreparably so. I loved this phone mostly because of my very neurotic nature. I loved having my music and camera in one place, the world wide web at my fingertips, and most of all, the limitless notepad where I stored all the books I wanted to find at the library, music I planned on listening to, gift ideas, directions, potential topics for blog posts, and oh so much more that I think I have irretrievably lost.

But oddly enough, I feel enlightened, unburdened, carefree. Maybe a portion of my lack of distress is simple due to the fact that phones are replaceable. I doubt I’d replace this one with another iPhone for I’m much too poor to do that. But I almost wish I didn’t have to replace my phone and could, instead, exist with simply internet access and a landline (though I don’t have the latter so I guess this plan doesn’t work out so well). But it’s impossible to deny the fact that, sadly enough, I need some kind of telephone in order to communicate with the world. I walk dogs part time and my boss likes me to text her before I head out in the mornings so she knows that I’m covered for the day. I need to be on call for my other part time job because I work with kids and if they get out of school early or if something happens at the Community Center where I work, my boss needs to be able to get in touch with me quickly so I can adjust my schedule. Working with other people just makes it impossible to stay as isolated as I sometimes want. Even socially I imagine there would be repercussions. So many people just don’t want to take the time to make a phone call these days, especially when a quick and easy text message will suffice. So for the person who may not be dying to talk to me, the fact that getting in touch with me would require picking up the phone and calling a landline could simply end our correspondence – that would just be too much effort. Which makes me feel bad about myself, but also about the ways that we communicate now and the changing shape of relationships.

On the one hand, I love constant connectivity because I can get in touch with someone at virtually any minute I think of it. If I want to let me fiance know I’ll be home late, or if I see a funny reference to an inside joke with a friend, I can get my point across in a matter of seconds and connect with that other person. This is a blessing and a curse, and I guess the benefit of such connectivity doesn’t always outweigh the downside.

I find myself constantly frustrated by people who don’t pay attention to me because they’re attached to their phones. There’s a reason we have nicknames for these new forms of technology such as “Crackberry” and I have witnessed such addictions first-hand. Even people I know with not-so-“smart” phones are oftentimes constantly texting and missing the happenings before their very eyes. I’m not always so innocent because there have been times when my hurry to return a text or my fear of forgetting something before making a note of it on my phone have removed me more than was necessary from the present moment. And sadly this has almost become acceptable behavior which most people get away with scot-free. I’m a big fan of multitasking and I always wish there were more hours in a day to get to all the things I want to do, however there is a line that we are dangerously close to crossing with no hope of a return. It is simply impossible to multitask when it comes to conversations, relationships, and communication in general. Have you ever tried to carry on two conversations at once? In doing so, both parties are bound to get less than your full attention which is both rude and alienating. And that’s my rant about the abundance of cellular phones and the danger of such plentitude – our relationships and conversations will suffer as we grow increasingly distant from those who we interact with face to face.

I know that people need to get in touch with me somehow for practical reasons, so I’ll find a replacement. But I already spend too much of my time worrying about things other than the present moment, I don’t need some new-fangled technology to add yet another distraction. So I think I’ll be just fine with Mike’s recycled flip phone – a Motorola model that I had some 5 years ago. I don’t need to always be able to figure out what the name of the song on the radio is before it ends or to text people immediately once the urge to do so strikes or to have email capabilities at all times – smart phones really aren’t necessary for my lifestyle. And I love that I had so much fun setting up my “old-fashioned” cell phone. Sure, I can’t send or receive photos on it and I’ve lost the ability to get online, but I was just as excited (maybe even more so) to choose my settings, wallpaper, and ringtones for this phone as I would have been for a brand-spanking-new model. It’s the simple things that do it for me. So, after relishing a few brief moments of phonelessness and soaking up every last vibration-free second, I’m back in the world of the hyper-connected. I’ve got an aged but reliable phone and, though the iPhone and I had a good run together, I’m perfectly content with reverting back to my roots. Who really needs an app for everything anyway?

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