There was once a time when children survived long car rides by counting license plates and pestering their siblings. There was also a time when banking was done at banks.
There was even a time when the routines of daily life, like standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for the check at a restaurant, offered opportunities for conversation with companions or maybe just a few moments of solitary contemplation.
But those days are over. The day of the iPhone has come – and with it, the death of waiting patiently.
I’ll admit that I used to feel superior to people who used their iPhones at restaurants or “U-Drawed” away at occasions where they should have been interacting with other people. Geez, I’d think, is that phone really more interesting than everyone you know?
After only two weeks of having an iPhone, I have fully become one of those people. I check Facebook while my husband and I are waiting for menus – as he’s checking the Yankees score across the table on his own iPhone. I take pictures of my food and “share” them with Instagram. I tweet on my lunch break, because all 284 of Alternative Control’s followers really care what I’m thinking at lunch.
I knew that the iPhone would encourage my screen addiction, but I didn’t realize I would spiral down so quickly. I thought I’d be able to keep the screen in my purse, discreetly checking it when I was at home, alone. Nope. I check the screen at home, in parking lots, at Goodwill, in fancy restaurants, in crappy restaurants… Even (gulp) in the bathroom.
In addition to overtly feeding my screen addiction, the iPhone is infiltrating my life in more subtle ways. For instance, I have the “My Fitness Plan” app, which allows users to track their net caloric intake. My Fitness Plan told me that I should consume 1210 net calories each day in order to lose five pounds this month. The app subtracts calories burned in exercise from food calories, so dieters can “earn” more calories by working out.
Great, right? How handy…. Well, it becomes a buzzkill pretty fast when you find out that the Shake Shack mushroom burger you just ate had 525 calories and those delicious cheese fries had 700. Even after an hour of walking and jogging earlier in the day, I had exceeded my caloric limit by lunchtime; if only I had checked My Fitness Plan before I ordered! What am I supposed to do now, go jogging again? (700 calories! All I wanted was some cheese fries!) Even as I write this column, I’m considering it…
That all sounds insane, but I know I’m not the only one like this. I’ve heard of those “monthly cycle” apps. I’ve seen your Instagram pictures of half-eaten sandwiches. Don’t pretend that your phone isn’t a vehicle for your private obsessions, just like mine has become.
The question now is what to do. Must I staunchly refuse to touch my internet phone while everyone else is playing U-Draw? Should I stop “sharing” photos? Should I trash My Fitness Plan and consume calories with abandon? And I do realize the irony of having one app to take pictures of food and another one to keep me from eating it….
I’m probably not going to do any of that. The deeper issue here is that my iPhone use allows me to participate more actively in our culture’s nastier traits: impatience, an obsession with minutiae, and a quest for perfection. (These are also some of the “double edged swords” in my own personality.) I remember reading a National Geographic article about some of the last true tribespeople in Africa. Their concept of time was so loose that they sent one guy to wait for the National Geographic author at a particular tree that served as a landmark… for a week. He just chilled out under the tree until the journalist got there. I’ll bet he wasn’t worried about his calorie app either.
On the other hand, this tribe also had minimal funeral rituals because early deaths were so commonplace – so I’m not saying that I want to trade places with the tribesman. I just wish that I could free myself of the need to be constantly occupied, constantly tracking, constantly striving… Where does all that get me? To the next post on my timeline? “Hey guys, there’s a really long line at Shop Rite today!” “Look how cute my cat is!”
I don’t have a good conclusion for this column because I’m not going to change my iPhone habits. (I’m too busy trying to change every other habit I have!) In fact, I’m resisting the urge to check Instagram right now – the strangers that follow me might have “liked” one of my pictures. Wait… Nobody likes my latest picture, but another person has begun to follow me. Is he a stranger? No, I think I saw his band once.
PS: Find me on Instagram — AltCtrlCt.