Where Are We Going And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

Where Are We Going And Why Are We In This Handbasket? November 13, 2018

Well, there is a lot of weird news out there today, like the freak out over Serena Williams being named GQ woman of the year and “woman” being lettered in “scare quotes.” Meandered through a lot of arguing tweets and then decided to try never to think of it ever again. Incidentally, why does GQ get to pick people of the year? Did they adopt that privilege for themselves, or did someone come to them and beg to know who they thought was the Very Best? I probably don’t want to know the answer to such an inconsequential question. No, I have fixed my mind on a more important matter—the smart phone’s days are maybe numbered—or not. Maybe they are not numbered. There are points on both sides.

The terrible trouble is, the market is saturated and the subsidies by which we were all tricked into thinking we were getting a phone for $200, when in reality we’re paying 6 or $800 over the long term, are disappearing. This is making us all hang onto our phones longer, which, I gather, is a catastrophe for world markets. Everyone has a smartphone, and is loath to go out and buy a more expensive smart phone, and so all the makers of smartphones are sitting around sadly in their perfectly appointed shared office spaces, miserably trying to think of what to do next.

One thing to do next is to get rid of the wretched things—and no, not by chucking them into the nearest river and restoring reason to her decrepit and crumbling throne. Rather by, as someone or other says, undergoing a transition to “…a new era of computing and connected devices based on voice, gesture and touch. ‘The transition from smartphones to smart wearables and invisible interfaces — earbuds that have biometric sensors and speakers; rings and bracelets that sense motion; smart glasses that record and display information — will forever change how we experience the physical world…’”

Oh man, that sounds like the absolute worst, the opposite, in fact, of how I would like to stagger through the last few depressing moments of this mortal life. Truly, the problem with my phone is that I now have a hard time “experiencing” the physical world in the old fashioned grounding way that kept humanity tethered to mental health and stuff. The problem with my phone is that it lies to me about the physicality of who I am. It makes me think I am someone I craft out of my own imagination, instead of someone who bends and stoops and notices the wind and finally collapses in the stolid comfort of my usual chair at the end of the day. While I’m doing the bending and stooping, the dishes and the laundry, the kicking up of crunchy leaves with my warm, soft, red shoe, the silent cursing of the gently falling snow, it constantly buzzes at me. It intrudes. It pries. It meddles. It frantically mediates my very existence into a realm that doesn’t really physically exist. It pulls me out of all those physical experiences that the Lord God, in his goodness, provided to integrate my body with my soul and then connect me to those of other people. It pulls me away and thrusts me into a world of perpetual outrage and sorrow.

And then it has the gall to update itself and start alerting me to how much “screen time” I’m using. It pulls me, in fact, away from whatever it I’m doing to enumerate the hours and minutes of “my screen time” in comparison to that of last week.

You have got to be kidding me. I spent no less than 20 minutes yesterday trying to figure out how to turn off a preaching, moralizing, interrupting notification which then added to the amount of my “screen time.” Is that ironic? Or is that like rain on my wedding day? My phone has made me too stupid to tease it out.

Anyway, remember that ancient article from last week about how techno-wizards don’t let their children use screens because they know how evil they really are? It’s all us lowly rubes who rush out and shove them into the hands of our offspring because we are too stupid to know better. Yeah, that one. I can’t find it…so you can probably just google, I mean, I think I linked it yesterday, but I’m too important to go back and see. Like Mark Zuckerberg, I am Very Important and don’t have time to consider if I’m lying or whatever. Where was I?

Oh yes, according to the article, most of our virtual overloads wait until the child is age 12 or 13 to glue a smartphone into his bored and languid hand. That’s where I discovered myself appalled. Why not rather shove the device into the grubby hands of a five year old than a twelve year old? Sure, wait until the poor creature is enduring daily cerebral hormone baths and feels out of sorts and worried about tomorrow and then append a bright shiny screen onto his or her tortured soul and then wonder why everything in the world is going so badly.

I am not a good mother. I do so many bad things. I haven’t eradicated all screens from our lives. But I feel that by being too cheap to buy any kid a cell phone, I have won at life. I have given each of them the greatest gift that can be given to a person—the chance to experience the physical world unmediated by someone else’s moral choices screaming at them with every swipe of the thumb…and then yelled directly into the ear, waved in front of the eye, bypassing even the exhausted work of the finger. No thank you.

*I’m gonna adopt the “scare quote” thing because I think it’s actually pretty “genius,” even though I don’t really cognitively know why, all my feels are telling me that it’s so “great.”

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