Smartphone addiction transcends international borders
It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without an iPhone. I picture my friends wearing bonnets, churning butter and playing with dolls at a creepily old age. Luckily, we avoided this type of get-together when Steve Jobs gave the Earth his gift. Now, we sit around on the couch engaging in half-minded conversation while simultaneously Facebook-stalking the progression of hairstyles sported by our latest hook-up.
Every aspect of our lives is becoming increasingly intertwined with the smartphone. Without certain apps, it’s undeniable life would be quite different.
Close your eyes and picture a day in Charlottesville without your iPhone. Your alarm goes off. Instead of lazily swiping your finger to turn it off, you actually have to get out of bed and find the clock on your garbage can of a dresser — the horror!
You begin getting dressed in the morning, unsure of whether it’s snowing outside or 70 degrees. Oh, Virginia weather, you’re so silly. You decide to wear your rain boots and a blanket-like down jacket. You’d rather be hot than cold, right? Wrong. Within five minutes of walking to class, your insulated feet are pooling with sweat. If only there was some easy way to check the weather in the morning when you’re in a rush.
You finally arrive to class, only to realize the teacher is not present and students are waiting outside the door like lost sheep. Bahhh. This goes on for 15 minutes before you leave. You get home to find an email from your professor, who cancelled class 20 minutes before it was supposed to start. Unfortunately, you can’t check your email unless you’re home on your computer. You decide to eat a spoonful of peanut butter to console your misery.
Note: the iPhone will not change this aspect of your life. Eating peanut butter from the jar has been a human practice for centuries, and will endure even when microchips are implanted into our brains. It is part of DNA.
While living abroad, I have realized the unreasonable regard I hold for my iPhone. Unlike the ancient days of maps, where interpretation was left to the idiotic tourist, getting lost is never really an issue. Using Google Maps, I am now simply an idiotic tourist with GPS technology. Still turning in circles when venturing from an unfamiliar metro station, I just turn on roaming international data, charge it to the credit card and easily avoid conversing French with strangers.
But it hasn’t managed to ruin my experience. I may know where I’m going more often, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t wandered around aimlessly, trying to get lost in Paris’ painterly streets.
To that end, going without my phone for a day or two can be peaceful. I zone out from this mildly unpleasant digital reality and get to think in my head. I am forced to speak French when asking for directions, despite being immediately shut down by those Parisians who can sense my timid American accent.
But eventually, after two days, I crave the swipe of my thumb. I am tired of hearing myself think and realize the only pleasure in life is scrolling through my Twitter feed to read other people’s worthless thoughts.
I have no doubt most people I know — not just kids — are in some way or another addicted to their smartphones. This growing dependency is inevitable, but shouldn’t be feared. This is not the apocalypse. Stop digging holes and collecting powdered milk.
Sure, we walk with our heads down more often, but that doesn’t entail the demise of a literate, robust public sphere. I am having the same experience studying abroad with an iPhone than I would with my 2004 pink Motorola Razr, because I realize my addiction and try to manage it. Everyone knows step one: admit you are powerless.
Allison’s column runs biweekly Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.