So on Saturday I covered a wrestling meet. I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit more than I expected, but that’s not what this story is about. You see, while I was at the wrestling meet, my phone passed away. That’s actually the way I phrased it in my head. I, as many people my age and younger probably are, am so attached to my cell phone that I can’t bring myself to say “died.” I have to use a euphemism to lessen the pain of the cataclysmic event.
I was about 45 minutes away from home in either direction. I was in a not-so-vibrant area when it came to nearby restaurants and shops. And I had never spent more than an hour or two in the location I was at. Needless to say, I needed to learn how to live for a few minutes. Now it’s not like I was lost in the wilderness with only my cunning to keep me alive. I wasn’t Bear Grylls-ing. But I had to find a few things.
Like I needed to email my story in. But how could I do that without WiFi? In most situations I would set up my phone as a wireless hotspot. But that wasn’t an option. Then my next impulse would be to find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks or something and use its WiFi. But without my phone’s GPS how was I going to find the closest one? I ended up driving about 10 minutes one direction before turning around and driving 15 in the other direction before finding a Hardee’s to mooch off its free WiFi.
Next I needed to get home. And that should be easy enough. Just retrace my steps from how I got there. But I didn’t drive there from home. I drove their from my parents’ house. So I had to use context clues and stuff and figure things out based on road signs and general savvy. That freaking sucked. Luckily I’m not a dunce and I knew where I was. But what if I didn’t? I would’ve had to ask for directions or something. What year is it, 1991?
So that’s the thing that bothers me this week. I can’t believe that I – a mostly self-reliant adult who is about to embark into the real real world in a few months – physically cannot operate without consulting my cell phone first. Even listening to the radio instead of Spotify Premium was a hassle. Ugh, commercials! That’s how I think!
I wake up in the morning because my phone tells me to. It’s my alarm clock, after all. Then I proceed to watch videos on my phone, check emails on my phone, scroll Twitter on my phone, play games on my phone and eventually respond to messages sent to my phone. And that’s before I even get out of bed. Then I’ll go to my car or head outside and start walking and the first thing I do is plug headphones into my phone so I can listen to music. Then I’ll get where I need to be. Once I’m there, I’m either using my phone for work or checking my phone to see if the people I’m with are there yet or checking my finances or something of this irk.
My phone has password protection on it. But it only makes me plug the password in if I haven’t used the phone in 10 minutes or longer. And that almost only ever happens when I wake up from sleep. If there goes a 10 minute period in the day where I don’t check my phone, it actually surprises me.
And how screwed up is that? Why is it that this chunk of WiFi-connected glass and plastic runs my life. I don’t run it. It runs me. It keeps me sane. It is my primary mode of communication, entertainment, education, stimulation and annoyance. It doesn’t have to be this way. I remember a time before I spent my entire life on my cell phone.
So I’ve been watching a few different shows on Netflix recently, but none more than Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And the thing that strikes me about it, other than the fact that it’s really good, is how terrible every situation was simply because there were no cell phones.
I know many people – myself included – have pointed out how every episode of Seinfeld could’ve been resolved with cell phones. But that’s true of Buffy too. Because in every episode there comes a point where someone says “Have you heard from [insert name here]?” And then someone else will say “No, [person] wasn’t home! What are we going to do?”
And so I see that and think “Man, cell phones make life so much easier!” Then I realize I’m thinking of cell phones from 2006. Yes, cell phones in the era where all they did was call and text made life so much easier. That was a life-saver. But now in an age where I embrace the fact that Google knows everything about me and I’m kind of okay with that, is it really a help or a hindrance.
If I for some weird reason forget my cell phone for a day, I’m done for. I’ve forgotten my wallet, my keys and even my backpack before class before. But all of those situations were resolved with my cell phone. I think we’ve accidentally bred a generation of less-reliable human beings because there is no problem solving capacity any more. Like last year my roommate forgot his keys and couldn’t get into our apartment. And his phone died. So he tried to message me through Twitter or Facebook but he couldn’t remember his passwords. And so he was SOL. No way of getting in. But I’m sure if we thought outside the Apple or Samsung box, we could’ve thought of a reasonable workaround.
But I can’t think of one right now. And I just checked my cell phone.
I had a long conversation about the future of cell phones with a buddy of mine who knows way too much about technology about a month ago. And the things that he told me phones are capable of doing startled me. It got me excited but it also made me realize that the world is only going to become more and more reliant. Payment. Storage. Even memory. People are storing their memories on phones in a roundabout way since phones are keeping records of what we search and what we say.
Is this scaring anyone else? Well, anyway, that was a story, a rant and a reference.