note: This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post on October 14. You can leave a comment there or LIKE it using FB (it would help me with the HP editor-gods).
“‘Cause now we’ve got bad blood
You know it used to be mad love…” ~ Taylor Swift
My 6S and I, we’re having a moment–a DTR (Define the Relationship), if you will.
I used to experience a tiny surge of bliss every time I touched my life-partner, but lately when I hold my phone, I worry I’ve crossed into codependency.
Love is blind.
In an effort not to totally self-destruct, I’ve started to treat my cell like the hot potato it is (no exploding Galaxy Note pun intended). You’ve read the articles (undoubtedly on that itty-bitty screen)–about your phone’s addictive properties, the Pavlovian pleasure pings, the time suck-age, and the strange but real phenomenon of feeling more isolated from your fellow humans because of “social” media. Blah, blah, blah. But have you considered the more sinister possibility that your phone is a conduit for your own hostile behavior, that it might be turning you into a deviant, a boor, a Donald Trump?
Ah, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, you say, and a phone is just a phone–a talisman, a thing.
I’m not so sure. Remember Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? As a kid in the 70s, I watched 2001 late-night at a friend’s house, and the idea of a computer running us instead of the other way around–it about scared my sleepover, Ms. Pac-Man pj pants off.
I also saw the 70s blockbuster: Network. And guess what? I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
Here’s how your phone is Hal-ing you, and why you might want to get out of your chair, open the window and yell IMAHAINGTTIA:
1. LOL=Lying Out Loud. Sometimes text abbreviations don’t even have the plus of being fewer syllables than actual words, and we’re no longer just typing alphabet soup-isms, we’re saying them–to each other’s faces. OMG, CYA, TTYL, and my least favorite: LOL. Saying LOL is exactly not what it purports: laughing out loud. It takes something as organic as laughter and turns it into dehumanized text-speak. For me, it’s the opposite of the desired response to a witticism. Saying LOL is sheer laziness, or, alternatively, I’m not that funny. And don’t tell me you’re LMAO when you’re barely chuckling.
2. Hal’s rewriting the rules of engagement. I had an al fresco, gorgeous fall lunch with a friend recently during which I swear the conversation was framed entirely by: the story of her phone. Look at the Craigslist couch I’m bidding on, look at the galvanized pipe closet I want to DIY from Pinterest, check out this (faked) photo of a creepy clown stalking the middle school parking lot. I had to keep my reading glasses handy long after the menus were swept away, TYVM. It would’ve been cheaper and more efficient to simply follow each other’s Instagram feeds.
3. Where two or more gather, so will I be… so sayeth your omnipresent device. All phones in a basket at the start of a social event is so 2010. There’s new unwritten etiquette: If there are more than two of us, I can fade in and out of the convo at will, in between gazing lovingly at my phone–or fooling around with it under the table. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up. I may have to ask five times who, what, when and where we’re talking about, but I’ll catch up. Later I’ll sigh, wondering why my friends and I have such superficial discussions, why things never go deep. And here’s a classic: You’re at a dinner party and someone innocently brings something up, like a movie. But, egad, he can’t remember if the star is Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling. You know what happens next: the draw, then an IMDB race so intense it almost crashes the host’s Wi-Fi. Too many of these moments and you know what really crashes? The party.
4. This phone has been flagged. Your boyfriend just heard me pee, then flush. When did it become okay for you to gab–on speaker–in the next stall? We still have girls’ rooms and boys’ rooms, last time I checked (except at Target). I don’t want to share my bodily functions with your beau, and I question why you do. May your device be drowned!
5. You’re texting and driving. Just a little bit, you know you are. I am too. WTH are we thinking???
So, is it time to call it quits? I don’t know how to kick Hal to the curb–if you figure it out, let me know. As much as I long to wriggle free, I don’t want to miss a business call, or, God forbid (and I say this in all seriousness), the group text that my friends are meeting up for drinks.
But I’ve begun to pour cool water (figuratively, of course) on the hot and heavy.
You had me from hello, but things have got to change…
I used to pride myself on being one of those polite, phone-face-down on the restaurant table types. But lunch is a battlefield. No promises, no demands: Lately I shove that dang thing into the depths of my purse, with the used Kleenex wads and lint-covered breath mints where it belongs. This works well for me, mostly. (Except for the time last week when my daughter’s school called. Five times. Still, what’s 45 minutes, already? It’s not like the kid was choking.)
To facilitate the pocketbook plunge, I bought a watch to tell me (and only tell me) what time it is. So when I’m feeling like it’s time to moveon.org, I can glance surreptitiously at my left wrist–probably while you’re checking your phone.
I also had to come to terms with the fact that my phone was a possessive jerk about weekends, and I needed to make time for me. I’m not a doctor on call, after all–so don’t hate me if I don’t immediately Like your FB post about your garage-made moonshine or your 7-year-old’s visit from the tooth fairy. I’ve started something I call No-Screen Saturdays, and I so love what it does to restore my soul, sometimes No-Screen Saturdays bleed over into Sundays. After a two-day Sabbath, by Monday morning, I’m fresh. An overflowing inbox? Bring it. Pop-up ads for The Way to instantly lose belly fat? No biggie.
Until around mid-afternoon Tuesday. By then, I’m fried again, and it STBM.
p.s. Want to sign the No-Screen Saturday pledge? Sign up on this site’s FB page or leave a comment below. This is real. And you will be held accountable (i.e. if you post a selfie or your kindergartner’s soccer team’s score, you VIOLATED your vow. Instant bustification.) Let me know how you do!
THE NO-SCREEN SATURDAY PLEDGE:
I, _________________________, pledge that I will not stare at screens on Saturdays. I will be present with myself, my thoughts, and the people I’m with. I might even go outside or read a book. Exceptions to No-Screen Saturdays include:
- Texts about important meetings times/logistics (i.e. let’s all meet at 6:00 for tacos and ice cream).
- Netflixing at night with a buddy. This is the new-fangled equivalent of picking up a tape from Blockbuster. Pop some corn and cuddle-up guilt-free.
- Calls to 911 or to order pizza or to say hi to your mom.
- Navigating. No one, including me, wants to use an actual map.
- Ubering. Who doesn’t love an Uber ride?