Some years ago before the popularization of text messaging and internet on cell phones, Jerry Seinfield said something prophetic. In discussing our obsession with answering our mobile phones and listening to our voice mails, Jerry mused, “Boy have we gone crazy with the phones.” Well, some 15 to 20 years after that, we have surpassed crazy and slid head first into the dusty plate of insanity and slavery. We have truly become cell-phone maniacs and literal slaves to said devices. The purpose of this post is not devised to demonize telecommunication or eradicate our addictions to technology. The purpose is to perhaps open our eyes a little bit. Is our happiness based on a little machine we hold in our pockets and hand bags; a device that has not been in existence for the vast majority of the planet’s history? I hope not. But let’s see.
I know many people that the instant their cell phone dies, so does their mood. Some are the type of people that make an aggravated announcement, “Frick guys, my phone is dead.” Others sulk in solitude until a friend so kindly asks what is wrong. Of course the congenial response is, “Nothing, just…my phone is dead.” Some enlightened individuals always carry their phone chargers so that such a tragic thing as a dead phone will not occur. But why are we so soured when we have to go a few hours without textual interaction? The reason is we have become so accustomed to instant gratification. If we want to talk to someone, we need not prepare a beautiful missive, we simply text them. If we want to take a photograph we do not whip out a bulky camera from a back pack, we simply press a button on our phones. If we want to know when movie times are we do not procure a local newspaper, we look it up on our phones. If we want to do something fun, we do it, but first we imagine the best possible scenario and timing for a photo, so all can know the quantity of our fun, and the aesthetic appeal of our hair that day.
This is all fine. This is the way the world has progressed (or regressed) and it only makes sense to conform and take advantage of such advances. But under what circumstances are we justified in getting all fussy just because our battery ran out? Are we incapable of using other resources? Are we not already around others with phones in case of emergency, i.e. need to take a selfie with the sunset in the background, need to send out some feeler texts so you are not left without plans later in the night, or the necessity to Shazam a song you here at a local pub. These things are important.
Why not look at a dead phone as an opportunity? It is not magically going to turn back on. Why waste energy on complaining or fixating on getting back to a location conducive to cellular charging? It is an opportunity to see things around you that you usually miss. It is a chance to remember things that the constant attention of a screen distracts from. It is the fortuity we have to engage in human contact.
Sometimes we are alone in our homes where we still crave a debilitating connection with the rest of the world. What if we miss a clever FB status, or fail to like a picture of the opposite sex that we have been pining for? My advice is that at times we must disconnect. We must walk through the world with more in mind than our phones. We must read a book without simultaneously having a text conversation. We must meditate without e-mail notifications. William Safire, a columnist for The Times wrote on how we could accomplish this peace without cellphonic interruption. He said:
“We turn off the surround-sound, unplug the coaxial cable, stuff the iPod under the seat cushion, and shut down the laptop. We unthumb the personal digital assistant, wipe the screen of the home theater, dispense with cellphonic communication, cut off conversational interruption, and then—alone at last—crack open a bound copy of printed pages and read. By thus employing the technique of uni-tasking, we harness the power of intra-cranial concentration and absorb personally selected data at warp speed.”
What a cathartic experience. And it does not have to be to read a book. It can be to contemplate serious life decisions, to take an uninterrupted nap, or to cook a fabulous meal without wondering if you already put in a tablespoon of paprika. I must say I am often just as culpable as the next person in terms of cell-phone addiction syndrome. I wrote this entire post while texting, listening to iTunes and checking FB periodically. But we all have space to improve. If nothing else, maybe we can refrain from such unpleasant irritability if by chance that battery percentage of our phone reaches that sinister and mocking 1%. For we know we will not see the zero. And we know that zero equates to a moribund phone and potentially a horrible attitude. We know this. So let us be preemptive and decide to be cheerful and felicitous if our phone for some dreadful reason is no longer in function.