I remember my first cell phone. A confirmed Luddite, I didn't really want to have anything to do with them. (Wiki Moment: Luddite; noun; 19th century British workmen who resisted the industrial age, sometimes by destroying machinery; presently applied to anyone who doesn't have a flat screen HD TV with wifi connection.)
I didn't want a cell phone because I knew as soon as I got one I would wonder how I had ever survived without one. That little bundle of plastic would become an indispensable part of my very existence, as important to my well-being as my right hand, and marginally more important than my left. Technology is like that. We tell ourselves we don't need it. And we don't-until we get a taste of it. Then we can't do without it.
Within twenty-four hours of getting my first cell phone I realized how bland and empty my life had been, how lonely and meaningless. I felt that way, that is, until I got a smart phone, a device that will henceforth be referred to as a smarter-than-thou phone, or STTP for short. My old cell phone had a little calendar; I could type in my appointments; a soft tone would notify me that I had a meeting in one hour. My smarter-than-thou phone wakes me up in the morning with "Mr. Noe, it is time to wake up. I'd like to review your appointments for today. At nine you have a meeting with . . . ." then later, "Are you sure you want to wear that shirt?" and later still "A single egg has 213 mg of cholesterol. Might I suggest dry toast."
This particular app was advertised as "Jeeves on Call." The voice is supposed to sound sophisticated, southing and slightly British. But it sounds suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to act like the governor of California when we all know he's really a robot from the future. Once, I let the battery on my STTP battery run down; it beeped once and then muttered "I'll be back," before shutting off.
Then, a week ago, I pulled my STTP out of my pocket to add a meeting to my calendar and discovered that it no longer worked. The screen lit up, the little buttons all buttoned. But nothing happened when I pushed them. My phone wasn't exactly dead, but it seemed to be brain dead. I took it to the shop. There was nothing they could do to revive it. They offered me a new phone, but I hadn't sufficient time to mourn my old one yet. I took it home, plugged it in to recharge, even though I knew it wouldn't do any good, and went to bed, depressed, dejected, and wondering how I would face the next day without my Buttler App. If I'd learned anything from PBS it was that the butler was smarter than the master. I needed that app to keep track of my life.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, full of vim and vigor (even though I'm still not entirely sure what vim and vigor is, I knew I was full of them or something similar.) I felt free, truly myself for the first time in-I realized, since I had first gotten that STTP.
How could that be? Only the night before it had been more than a friend, it had been a family member. More than a family member, a companion, a mentor.
I hadn't realized until it no longer had a stranglehold on my life just how much it had become my digital task-master, telling me when to wake up, when to go to meetings, who wanted to talk to me, who left messages for me. It controlled my whole life.
At that moment I felt myself slip back into an earlier, simpler time, a time before reality TV, a time before Twitter, a time when phones were attached to the wall by a leash, thus keeping them from following us around like obedient puppies, only to seize control of our will at the least likely moment. My mind was filled with sepia tone images of life as it was meant to be, life that wasn't controlled by a 3.5 (diagonal) screen.
If, like me, you've ever wondered if free-will is an illusion, that some bureau was subtly adjusting your life to fit some grand scheme that you haven't been consulted about, look no farther than the digital app-monster on your hip. To paraphrase Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he has offered us a two year unlimited voice, texting, and data plan."
Why not use your STTP to post a comment or share your experiences at www.yourvalleyvoice.com?