I keep thinking I'll take a picture, play Bejeweled until my eyes hurt enough that I'll fall asleep (this is the only game I have on my phone, and this is the only reason I have it), listen to music on a walk, read Facebook on the bus, play an audiobook when I can't read, look up a train time, get a phone number I could really use while I'm standing on a train platform, listen to Sherlock Holmes radio plays to keep my insomnia from waking up Andrew, play 6music without getting out of bed, answer that kind of idly-asked question that no one in restaurants or pubs ever lets lie any more thanks to Google and Wikipedia.
But then I can't. I can't do any of those things, because my phone isn't really a phone. It's enhancing all these areas of my life. Or at least, I think it is.
Now of course I could listen to music on mp3 players (and I have found the shitty cheap mp3 player that mostly I only use on planes, because my phone battery won't last that long and I will want it for other things when I'm on the ground). And I could have an actual separate camera (though I haven't since I got my first smartphone, because I don't care about the quality of the pictures so much as being able to take them at times when I haven't planned my life well enough to have the camera with me). I can just leave the idle curiosity alone. I don't need to resolve all questions about the nearest train station to Llangollen or what it is people are going to see at the MEN (or even what the MEN's called now, because we know it's not that but Andrew's still working on not calling it the Ninex so we're not best-placed to answer this question).
Nearly everything smartphones do is not as necessary as Apple and Google and Samsung and whoever else want us to think they are. Almost everything can be done later, slower, differently, or you won't miss it if it isn't done at all.
Or it's actually good for you not to do it.
The tag I use when I'm talking about being depressed or sad has for years been called "turn the wireless up," thanks to reading Alan Moore misquoting Victoria Wood: "In my day, we'd just turn the wireless up and get on with it." (It's an attitude to depression that I'm very familiar with, and even by using it I'm allowing myself to talk about it without having a tag appear in huge letters on the side of my blog saying "depressed, depressive and depressing" (which is what any more direct label would feel like to me.) The outside world, via radio or smartphone, is a distraction from interior anguish.
The meditation class I took earlier this year
didn't lead to me practicing meditation on my own, but it did make me think a lot about mindfulness (as I say in the linked entry). I'm still thinking of it in the terms that I was told at the very beginning of the class:
2) of the present moment
At the time, I was thinking a lot about judgmentalness, but when I think about phones I'm thinking about of the present moment
. Sending my mind away from my body is good and necessary sometimes (how else would I remember anything, or talk to people who aren't where I am? or write, for that matter) but it can be done too much. It can, now, be done all the time. And for an illustration of why that's a bad thing, here's Louis CK.
(First of all, if you don't know that bit he's talking about in "Jungleland," take ten minutes of your life to listen to it
. Don't skip to the end, like all
those youtube commenters who are just there because of Louis CK. Let the song build up.)
"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something," he says. "That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. Because, underneath everything in your life there's that...empty, forever-empty. You know what I'm talking about? That knowledge that it's all for nothing and you're alone. It's down there. And sometimes when things clear away, you start going 'oh no, here it comes, that I'm alone!' Like it starts to visit on you, you know, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad."
He goes on to talk about experiencing a little moment of ephemeral sadness (at a bit this song, and that video up there is totally worth watching for Conan O'Brien's amazing impression of Springsteen's guttural howls at the end of "Jungleland"), starting to reach for his phone, and thinking "You know what? Don't. Just be sad. Stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck." He pulls over and cries, "and it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You're lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because of it. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has, like, antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip."
And it is. Even if it takes me like half an hour to write a text message now.