For years I took pride in using the cheapest of cheap phones, and using them until they were literally falling to pieces. But on Day 1 of my new job, my supervisor asked me, “So what’s your Smart Phone situation?”
I stared at her. Blinked. Stammered, “Uh…well…it’s a…I have a ‘dumb’ phone, actually.”
I couldn’t quite bring myself to admit to her that it was three years old, that the battery had this embarrassing tendency to pop out, that while I could go online with it it cost me about half my monthly bill, but I did have unlimited texting. I mean, that’s something.
She just said, “Hm. You’ll want to get an iPhone or something. Think you could do that this weekend?”
So okay, I succumbed under pressure. And now I own an iPhone, and I think if I’m not careful it might ruin my life. Even in my dumb phone days, I had started sliding into that awful habit of compulsively checking my phone every fifteen minutes because you just never know when that Big Call might come in. Now? Well, now I can check for calls, texts, Facebook messages or updates, emails from work, personal emails, Twitter messages, and even comments on this blog. Oh yeah, and all the reminders I’ve set for myself lest I let even one detail of my life go for even a moment. Then of course there’s all the news I have to keep an eye on (mostly for work, but hey…it’s interesting). I can also read up on all those blogs I claim to follow, search for new shoes, pay my bills, find my way from here to there, look for recipes, and ultimately shut the whole world out because everything and everyone I could ever possibly need is here in the palm of my hand.
This leads to an interesting thought: We’ve become a generation of wizards.
No wonder every person under the age of 40 walking down the street in this city has their gaze riveted to their hand held device.
Think I’m wrong? Glance up from your cellular device, my friend, and look around you. I guarantee, you’ll notice what I just described.
Hey, I’m guilty, I know. It’s convenient to have everything at my fingertips, I won’t lie. But doesn’t that make it all the more crucial to leave the device to one side now and then and focus on the real, physical world I happen to inhabit? Fingertips were meant to encounter more than touch screens.
I stood with a friend of mine yesterday, who had her face buried in her iPhone the whole five minutes we were together; she only came up for air once to say, “Sorry, it’s so-and-so.” As if the virtual presence of so-and-so made her obliviousness to my presence somehow okay. I’m sorry, was so-and-so dying? Contemplating suicide? Was what he had to say so very important that she couldn’t glance up from the cellular device for a moment to encounter me? Could she not at the very least say, “I’m so sorry, I have to respond to this message–I’ll come find you in five minutes”? Small courtesies, but in this age of “instant” everything, too often we let ourselves think, “This’ll only take a second.”
Certainly I’ve been guilty of this, too. Who am I hurting, really, responding to this text message right now? Won’t my friends be angry with me if I don’t get back to them this minute? I’ve harped on this before, but I guess I just need to remind myself more than anything. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing can replace spending time with people in the flesh. Real love requires real presence. And real presence requires a heart that’s really at rest. Smart phones are all very well in their way, but they feed that restlessness we all have–the desire to know everything, to be everywhere, to be involved in anything that might be going on. At least now and then, let it go. Friends, let’s recommit to being present to one another. I’m committing to it, and I want you to hold me accountable.
Yes: I have an iPhone. Yes, I’m now technically more available than I’ve ever been before, because you can contact me via email, text, call, Facebook, Twitter, blog comment…and I have it all available in one convenient place. If you really, really need me, just try all of the above. Still, be aware that I’m going to be setting this device aside throughout the day and doing my best to encounter the Actual World around me in a full, present way. Don’t take it personally. It’s just that I think the people in front of me in the moment, whatever the moment might be, deserve my undivided attention. And when you’re that person, I’ll show you the same courtesy.