Thursday, January 1, 2015

Unplugged.

My phone and I, in happier times. 

My word for 2015 has been selected for me, against my will, but also with my inadvertent cooperation: UNPLUGGED.

Tonight, on the way home from a New Year's Day gathering, it occurred to me that I had no idea where my phone was. A moment later, a horrible realization hit: while rummaging in my purse to find my keys, I had set down my phone on the trunk of my aunt's car -- a car that was, at the moment of this realization, doing at least 55 on the freeway.

Thanks to the wonder that is the "Find My iPhone" app, my daughter determined the whereabouts of the phone, and we made our way toward it, hazard lights blinking, at 10 miles per hour on the shoulder of the pitch black freeway until the app claimed we had "reached our destination" -- at which point I came to learn that by "destination," the app meant "destiny," as in, "Your destiny is never to see your phone again."

So we erased the phone remotely.

Mind you, this was not easy. I form strong attachments to objects, like the hair barrette I lost in seventh grade while playing soccer. I spent five consecutive recesses searching every part of the field for a barrette that hadn't meant much to me up until I lost it.  I never found it. Just thinking about that barrette makes my chest tighten. I imagine it is somewhere still out there, waiting to be found.  I kind of want to go looking for it right now.

That's how mental I can be.

Now substitute a PHONE for a stupid barrette, and maybe you'll begin to understand how I reacted tonight. Luckily, my passenger was a daughter I can blessedly call my own, who talked me down, erased the phone's contents, and reminded me that it was, after all, just an object.

I told her the barrette story. She was, unsurprisingly, unsurprised.

What will life be like for me, without my cyborg capacities? Who will I be without my phone? What will I do? Will Instagram go on without me? If a text goes out into the wilderness of the Interwebs, and no one is there to answer, did it really happen?

As you may know if you visit my blog at this time of year, I am in the habit of declaring a word for the year, and tonight, after reporting the time of death of my iPhone (9:10 p.m.), I joked that my word for the year should be "unplugged."

And then I realized that it really should be.

Oh, HECK yes, I am so getting another phone, but I am also going to take some time to learn a lesson.

In one of my favorite TED talks ever, cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, referring to cell phones, claims,
So now we're all these paleontologists that are digging for things that we've lost on our external brains that we're carrying around in our pockets. And that incites a sort of panic architecture --"Oh no, where's this thing?" We're all "I Love Lucy" on a great assembly line of information, and we can't keep up.
And so what happens is, when we bring all that into the social space, we end up checking our phones all the time. So we have this thing called ambient intimacy. It's not that we're always connected to everybody, but at any time we can connect to anyone we want. And if you were able to print out everybody in your cell phone, the room would be very crowded. These are the people that you have access to right now, in general -- all of these people, all of your friends and family that you can connect to. 
And so there are some psychological effects that happen with this. One I'm really worried about is that people aren't taking time for mental reflection anymore, and that they aren't slowing down and stopping, being around all those people in the room all the time that are trying to compete for their attention on the simultaneous time interfaces, paleontology and panic architecture. They're not just sitting there. And really, when you have no external input, that is a time when there is a creation of self, when you can do long-term planning, when you can try and figure out who you really are. And then, once you do that, you can figure out how to present your second self in a legitimate way, instead of just dealing with everything as it comes in -- and oh, I have to do this, and I have to do this, and I have to do this. And so this is very important. I'm really worried that, especially kids today, they're not going to be dealing with this down-time, that they have an instantaneous button-clicking culture, and that everything comes to them, and that they become very excited about it and very addicted to it.
Preach on.

This year, I am going to seek unplugged moments, calculated intersections of time and space, mindfully turning away from the screen -- irresistible as it is -- to focus on the "creation of self."

Your death was not in vain, dear iPhone.







I wonder when my new one will be arriving?

3 comments:

  1. Love this! Happy unplugged 2015!

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  2. Wow, I feel you, Jill. I am the same way. I get emotionally attached to things. And for this reason, I find it difficult to purge even the most inane things. Your barrette story reminds me of my Cinderella watch. I lost it over 30 years ago and I still miss that pretty little mechanical machine that wrapped around my wrist. Cinderella's arms were the hands on the watch face. It was so pretty and delicate. I miss that thing. Even now. So silly.

    I'm proud of you for picking unplugged for 2015. You can do it! I'm not as attached to my iPhone as others are but I can understand how it may feel like you've lost an appendage. Glad your own daughter was able to "talk you down." lol Good luck! I look forward to seeing and reading more of your stories!

    Anne (aka sassiescrapper)

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  3. I am sure you got really scared. I would be too. It is true 20 years ago, we weren't that dependent on the cell. But it was created and we got dependent. Its going to be though to be unplugged. But I think you are right. Its something we need to do. We need to remember that we can do things without having a cell by our side.
    I will try to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration and a new years resolution!

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