I don’t have to sit by the phone and wait any more; now I can take it with me while I wait for it to ring. My twitter alert sounds like a telegraph. My Facebook beeps, my Whatsapp has a different beep. My incoming ringtone is the 1970’s theme song to the television series “Wonder Woman” as a call to arms when a business call comes in. Calls from my mother have a rotary-style ringtone symbolic of her relationship to the apparatus in question. Although, to her credit, my mother has learned to text, Viber, and Facetime, taking being a mother and the art of guilt into the 21st century. My phone wakes me up in the morning with the sound of cathedral bells ringing. All of my other “do not forget” alerts sound like a “red alert” alarm. Every time my phone chirps, beeps, or rings, my reaction has become Pavlovian. When I’m not experiencing it vibrating, lighting up, or making sounds at me, the silence concerns me, and I look at it to make sure it’s okay. What has become an extension of my hand has taken over my life.
There are days when I appreciate the immediacy of the Information Age. The ability to instantly communicate with anyone from anywhere is miraculous, but I do miss the thrill of receiving a handwritten letter. The other day I was listening to “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes, and the desperation in her voice for a letter; more innocent times for sure, pre-sexting to be certain. Poor thing was waiting weeks for an overseas letter—these days you can just click and send. In fact, thanks to my phone, I can have, in theory, a whole courtship with a man I never actually meet in person! In fact, who needs a man? If I can program Siri’s male voice to say all the things I want to hear, all those buttons and gizmos should be enough. Now that people can sext via text, or chat, or Skype, why do we ever really need to get together?
How many of us sleep with our phones just next to us? Some mornings I have awoken to find my phone still in my hand like it had replaced the security toy of my childhood. And when the phone breaks, it’s more damaging than any breakup could be. In fact, since we’re going down this path, if we don’t need to spend time in anyone’s physical presence anymore, then what’s the harm in dating several people at once? If you’re never really with them, it’s never really cheating, is it?— Or isn’t it? I suppose as long as you call everybody “darling”, it doesn’t really matter if you send the wrong text to the wrong person.
What I can’t stand is cowardice, when people hide behind their phones. We hang up on each other, because we know we’ll never come face-to-face. The way we treat people over the phone is far more removed and callous and abrupt than how we would treat them if they were standing right in front of us. This is the part of technology that is not good for humanity. The beginning of total disregard for how we “talk” to one another. I hate when people send stupid texts because they don’t have the balls or courtesy to pick up the phone and have a conversation, God forbid! It’s already bad enough when conversations that should be had face-to-face are done over the phone. The phone has made us great at gossip, we can instantly send smoke signals to the world with a selfie, or a photo of some celebrity acting badly, or state our current status or weigh in on a topic with our unasked for two-cents. Who cares? These are wonderful tools for the media, but culturally, it is killing the art of one-on-one, physically present conversation.
I hate when men prematurely initiate sexting. It’s making a move too soon. If we were in the same room, I would move his hand away and say “Sorry, I’m not ready yet.” But he seems to think that because we’re separated by a screen, it’s okay for him to send me a naked selfie and ask me to do the same. Just because it’s not skin-to-skin doesn’t mean it’s not intimate. God, I want a condom for my phone! Is there an app for that? There’s certainly an art to sexting. The pen can still be mightier than the sword…but not in this case.
Although I can appreciate the skill that is required to communicate effectively with my tiny little gadget and be a part of the global community through cyberspace, nothing can ever take the place of or be as delicious as the welcomed touch of another. When you can “reach out and touch someone” and actually feel their flesh, have them next to you, look in their eyes with an intensity that is not as clear on Skype or Facetime. My phone also gives me my heart-rate, bank balance, weather, points me in the right direction, gives me access to anything and everything I could possibly want or need, except replace the intimacy and fine nuanced experience with in-the-flesh, present, face-to-face contact.