Anderson: Why I went back to my ex (smartphone)

Broken hearts, broken screens – our attachment to technology

I was panicking, patting all my pockets frantically; it was gone. After a short 16-week, intense love affair with my new Samsung Galaxy S5, it was gone. Following a swift departure from a taxi, I had lost my beloved phone.

As a generation, our collective obsession with mobile technology is undeniable and inescapable. When leaving my house, I check for three things: phone, keys, ID – in that order.

Checking my phone has become both a compulsion and a fascinating, rewarding pastime. The entire world is literally at our fingertips, why wouldn’t we choose to stare into it at any given chance? News, social media, games, email, notes and images are all a mere swipe away.

These devices are mesmerizing. We all have that friend who cannot, for the life of them, listen to anyone while they check their phone. You could be feet from them, engulfed in flames, smoke billowing out of your mouth and eyes and, yet, there they would stand, phone inches from their face, typing furiously and responding flatly with, “mhm, yeah, totally.”

Maybe I’m old school, but I think it is the height of disrespect to be looking someone in the eyes, and consciously, deliberately take out a phone and start using it.

Because these devices fill so many of our needs, we develop an unhealthy attachment to them. They have become a sort of security blanket for adults. You are never alone at night when your device is staring back at you from the other pillow. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve fallen into this trap. Even misplacing it inside my house causes me extreme anxiety.

Over time, my phone has become an appendage, a part of me. It never leaves my hand, pocket or sight.

It hasn’t been this way forever. I put off getting a smartphone until July 2011 – amazing, I know! I was about four years behind the smartphone revolution. What did I even do with my phone back then? Tetris probably.

After I lost my beloved S5, I was digging through drawers looking for an old flip-phone. When I couldn’t find it, it dawned on me that I gave it to a thrift store last summer. A THRIFT STORE! This amazing tool that enables the user to make a call or send a message, instantly, was worth so little to me at the time, that I willingly gave it away, without a second thought.

I gave it away and haven’t looked back since. Because once you take that smartphone leap, there is no going back.

Once you get accustomed to using them regularly, it’s impossible to return to basic technology. Daily agendas, maps, contacts, voice recorder, email, to-do lists, absolutely everything was stored in my phone. I relied on it so much that when I lost my beloved, I felt helpless and lost.

I was only without a cell phone for a day and a half. It was hell. 
I ended up staying at home, compulsively checking my Facebook messenger, because it was the closest thing I had to text messages.

I finally found my old iPhone 4 (my first smartphone), just lying there, forgotten, tossed in a desk drawer, complete with a smashed screen. I almost shed a tear. I was so happy. I rushed to a repair shop and without a second thought, dropped $70 on a new screen.

Finally, I was connected with the rest of the world! Eagerly I unlocked the phone and tried to do what I used to on my beloved. Then I was hit with the crushing pain of the technological downgrade.

Sure, I could do most of what I needed to, but all those things took far longer than I had gotten accustomed to with my beloved. The iPhone was glitchy and pain- fully slow. Half the time, I found myself getting worked into a little rage and quitting whatever application I was trying to use. The step down was simply too dramatic.

Hours into activating my old phone, I had already began scheming ways to get a new one. I justified it in every way possible: “Oh I need faster email, this calendar app isn’t syncing with my laptop, the battery life is awful,” and even, “the alarm clock snooze function isn’t intuitive enough!”

I just wanted my shiny, fast, and above all else, expensive, security blanket.

We get so used to having these triumphs of technology tucked in our pockets that we can become careless with them. I lost my beloved and now, for lack of a better option, I am back together with my ex-smartphone. The one who I broke up with in a pretty memorable fashion. It may have fallen out of my pocket when I jumped off a stage while celebrating my last birthday.

I have resigned to staying in a relationship with my ex, for as long as I can handle it, or until I save enough to buy another beloved, whichever comes first.

The most significant shift, now that I’m back together with my ex, is that over the last few weeks I noticed my social media usage plummet. Instagram used to be my go-to time waster, but not anymore. The screen resolution is so poor on my ex, compared to my beloved, that the images aren’t even pleasing to look at. Facebook takes ages to refresh, Snapchat freezes, Twitter is glitchy, and it’s just not worth it.

With an abundance of spare time, I’m noticing how transfixed others are with their devices. Maybe it’s just jealousy, but I see a significant pattern. They say it’s better to have loved and lost an Android than never to have loved one at all, but I think it’s more than that. I can see people blatantly diverting their attention away from those around them, and funneling it into their phones. Doing what? Probably texting someone, somewhere else, who is doing precisely the same thing!

This is not a cry to abandon these magnificent devices and revert back to carrier pigeons. It’s far from that. This is a humble observation from a person who has spent the last few weeks cursing her ex and people watching. We are missing out on things happening right in front of our faces.

I do know that once I get a new beloved, however difficult it may be, I will consciously leave it alone while in the company of others. As fantastic, intuitive and useful as smartphones are today, they cannot replicate or replace the company of actual living, breathing humans. I hope for the sake of us all that true experience and connections will forever trump manufactured entertainment and distraction (even if we do develop strong feelings for our devices).