“Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.”
Daniel J. Boorstin
I have a confession to make. What I am about to admit to is something that I am sure many of you out there have felt at some point or another, during the not so distant past. It’s not exactly something that I ever pictured myself ever saying. Not me. Never that. After all, I thought of myself as a forward thinking fella. I never had a problem with embracing change. I considered myself to be the kind of person that kept their gaze pointed toward the horizon, always looking out for what tomorrow might bring. Yet here I am, typing this in my little home office, admitting to the fact that I wish something had never changed. But what the hell. Sometimes you have to say thing out loud in order for them to feel real. Besides we are all friends here right? So here goes. I miss being human.
Jeez, that felt so good to get off my chest! Man, I should have done that a long time ago. O.K. now, I can see how that may have sounded a bit odd to you. So let me rephrase what I said, so that there is no misunderstanding between us. There are times when I miss being 100% human. Don’t you? Do you remember how it was like before Apple, Google, and Rim all turned us into living, breathing automatons. I sure do.
I long for simpler times, like the year 2006. Back when the entire web, or the mobile version of it anyway, was not attached to our phones. When we used our cellular devices to make actual phone calls. When texting was just something we did to avoid long drawn out conversations with people we didn’t want to actually talk too. Before it came to replace speech as the primary method of communication between us and our loved ones. The phones were small and compact, and lasted days without recharging. The screen looked like a miniaturized version of the old Nintendo Game Boy. There were no fancy features, except maybe a 1.2 mb camera that took such lousy pictures, that it could serve as a plausible excuse as to why you looked so bad in a photo. But then Apple introduced the Iphone and geeky hipsters everywhere went bananas for Steve Job’s new technological baby. RIM was boring, but it was safe and dependable, and business types could not get enough of the Crackberry goodness that it offered. Then Goggle came along and assimilated the the rest of us that had been spared by Apple and Rim. We were now part of Goolges Android army. Resistance was futile.
O.K. all kidding aside, the point of that whole rant was really to highlight the increased frustration that I have been feeling about the somewhat unhealthy relationship that I share with my mobile device. I had been introduced to cell phones relatively late in the game. I didn’t get my first phone until around 2004. At that point in time I didn’t feel like having a cell phone was that big of a deal. I just used it to talk to the family back home in NYC once a week, and to be able to reach the wifey throughout the day. I texted, and made calls. That was about all I did on that phone. And it was about all I needed for it to do. But then I started reading report about a new generation of feature rich phones. They would be able to surf the web and take decent pictures, and had GPS. Some phones even came with a built in accelerometer. I didn’t even know what an accelerometer was or what it was used for. But I didn’t care. It sounded cool and exciting. I was intrigued.
Then I saw the Nokia N95. It was an unlocked phone, sold mostly in Europe. It was a slider phone. It had a gigantic 2.6 inch display. A 5 MP camera in the back. It came with GPS. And it had that accelerometer that I knew nothing about, but wanted. It could surf the web. It had a front facing camera. I was floored by the N95’s features. I had seen the future. And I wanted to be part of it.
I got my N95 from Amazon. I paid $600 dollars for it. At the time I thought it was the best money I had ever spent. At first the N95 was everything I had dreamed. It was beautiful to look at. It was powerful. And it put the internet at my fingertips no matter where I was. Well as much as I could get out of EDGE speeds that is. But that was when I learned that any love that you place on technology, is a love misplaced. What is hot and new one moment, is old and obsolete in a matter of months. The rate of technological advance is so accelerated, that it makes it financially impossible to keep up with the times.
Within 5 months I found myself longing for new, more powerful handsets. Each new device was thinner, larger and more more powerful than the last one. Along with the new handset came faster data speeds, which meant that I could stream audio and video. Anything that I wanted to look up was right there for me in the palm of my hand. If I needed an address, my phone could get it for me. If I needed to find the name of that one band, that did that one thing, that one time, while playing that one song, my phone could help me get the answer to that too.I couldn’t bare to be without my phone for any extended period of time. There could be a some dumb trivia question that I needed to find the answer to, or what what if I suddenly got the inclination to learn about the entire publishing history of the Incredible Hulk on wikipedia? My phone was no longer a tool. It had become an extension of me. Centuries of data were now at my disposal. And I needed to learn it all. And every time I upgraded to a more powerful smart phone, I was being upgraded along with it. I was reaching information overload.
I don’t know if this is true or if I just perceive things that way, but I feel that my thoughts became more fragmented since I started using smart phones. My attention span, which wasn’t that great in the first place, plummeted to an all time low. The phone fed the compulsive aspects of my disorder and gave it an endless supply of distractions. The news, which was always choc-full of dark and sensationalized headlines gave my anxiety something to always be fearful about. I had no way to measure myself. To set limits. I couldn’t get myself disconnected from the grid.
A year ago I realized that if I was going to improve both my physical and mental states, then I needed to set limits on when and where I could use my smartphone. So I set a number of restrictions that I hoped would wean me of my addiction to information. I would only allow my self fiddle with the phone in the morning during the first 15 minutes that I was awake. I would then need to wait until after my first scheduled break at work, before I could start using my phone for a few minutes at a time. I would have loved to not bother using the phone except to make phone calls for the rest of the day, but my job is too tedious and monotonous for me not to introduce a much welcomed distraction during the later hours of my shift.
I will admit that someday I do better than others. There are times that I manage to use my phone for a few minutes during the entire day and I hardly notice. On rarer occasions, I have been able to pull off ignoring my smartphone all together. Those are good days. On those days, I stop to smell the proverbial flowers. Time slows down. I have deeply philosophical, meaningful conversations with my wife and loved ones. And my lungs take nice, deep breaths, and my mind is quiet and calm, and I am reminded of how good it feels to be alive sometimes. Then there are days when I experience the complete opposite. I have wasted away perfectly good day with my face buried in my HTC EVO LTE’s 4.8 inch screen. Constantly refreshing my Facebook News Feed, to see what people that I hardly speak to anymore are doing with their days. And for the most part, I tend to find that they are pretty much not up to anything remotely interesting; so I’m always left feeling rather disappointed. Or I go web site hopping from one spot to the next. Just hoping that something will capture my overactive imagination. Those are are the real bad days for me. When I am so distracted by the endless stream of info going into my brain that I forget to look up and see what exactly is going on around me. I ignore my wife. I lose track of my responsibilities at work. I become compulsion personified. And at the end of the day, when I am in bed, laying next to my sleeping wife, I can’t help but feel guilty that I spent entire day looking at life through binary coded glasses.