I can’t remember exactly when this started but over the last 10 years or so I have begun to stop thinking for myself. I have left the running and planning of my entire life to a little piece of plastic, glass and microchips; otherwise known as my iPhone. This gadget has completely revolutionised my life and means that everything I need to know can be found within one 15x7cm device that sits neatly within my pocket. The advantages are so numerous that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in one little blog (and don’t worry – I don’t plan to [phew!]). But I wonder if my reliance on my iPhone has literally come at the expense of my ability to think, make decisions and…y’know, remember stuff. Could I function tech-less as a human being? Or am I so attached to this device, that the folds of my brain have become smooth (practically shiny even) with ill-use?
Now of course I’m not solely speaking about the iPhone, I’m talking about the smartphone in general. If you have a phone that does everything, then you are probably in the same position as me or are well on your way. I don’t consider myself particularly tech-savvy but show me an innovation which will actually make my horribly-crazy life easier and I will latch onto it like a fly gravitates to dog-poo. When I first migrated from a simple calls-only mobile phone (ha ha ha ha, what a Neanderthal I was!) to an iPhone, I didn’t think I would need half its functionality. And this possibly remains true; there are many apps that I don’t even know the purpose of, their mysterious little icons are just nice little pictures to fill the space on my screen really. But the functions that I do use, I have now completely embraced and couldn’t live without.
We have a saying in our house, ‘if it isn’t in the iPhone calendar, it isn’t happening’. The three smartphone-savvy members of our household have all synced our calendars so we know exactly what the others are doing down to the last millisecond of every day. It is often a race to grab a free evening in the week or you are met with the dreaded message, ‘night out with the boys’ (that’s my husband’s calendar entry; I very rarely have a night out with the boys…). My daughter asked for a Filofax as a present once, I warned her that the Filofax was a very outdated method of organisation these days but she wouldn’t be swayed. Needless to say, the Filofax lies abandoned somewhere in her bedroom. Who wants to carry a hefty thing like that around when all the info is on your tiny phone (which when stuffed into the back pocket of your jeans, won’t compromise the aesthetics of your outfit)? And don’t even THINK of having a birthday that hasn’t been documented in my phone calendar. We need a new house saying, methinks, ‘if your birthday isn’t in the phone, you don’t have one’. I’m quite serious; without the two birthday reminder alarms that we set for every family member and friend; nobody would ever get a card or a present. Even my own mother. We have emptied out our minds of all important events, so you’d better hope your special day is logged or you’ll get zilch from us. For some strange reason, neither my husband nor I set a phone reminder for our wedding anniversary. Our third anniversary last year came and went, sailing by without a word or comment. It wasn’t in the phone. So it wasn’t happening. This error has since been rectified so the same mistake cannot happen this year. I think.
Do you remember the days when payphones were everywhere? Do you remember having the annoyance of needing a payphone quite desperately but not having the small change to use one? I haven’t used a payphone in YEARS. Why would I need to with a phone in my pocket ever at the ready? Have you heard that ‘Maroon 5’ song that was released earlier this year? The chorus went, ‘I’m on a payphone trying to call home, all of my change is spent on you’. Not once does the singer ever mention that his mobile has run out of charge and is at home or he’s inadvertently smashed the screen due to not buying a resilient case and it’s in for repairs or something. Every time the song came on in the car I used to turn to my children and say, ‘why does he need a payphone? He should shop around and get himself a good pay-monthly deal with a decent phone provider with a comprehensive tariff bundle that offers an inclusive free minutes and texts package’. My children sigh and nod and continue to stare from the window as we drive along, well-accustomed to my near-constant sarcasm.
I don’t think I could live without email sent directly to my phone. Imagine having to get up off the sofa and actually walk over to the big, dusty computer in the corner of the room just to check your mail? It exhausts me just thinking about it. I can’t imagine how many disasters would have befallen me if I hadn’t had access to my email when I’m out and about. Work, school, social-life; having my email at hand organises my family’s entire lives. The only problem is that there’s just no escape. I am contactable anywhere, (24/7 virtually). I suppose I could just ignore it and refuse to look at my mail but the risks far outweigh the benefits of doing that. I will miss something, I will forget something, I will have to blame somebody (the phone usually). I have delegated those tasks and they are no longer mine. And if I’m ever arrested by the police and they ask me where I was and what I was doing on a certain date, if the phone hasn’t stored that data (and it does have the propensity to wipe past events), they may as well lock me up and throw away the key. Because I have no bloody idea where and when I’m supposed to be somewhere in the future, let alone what I was doing in the past!
So you get my point. We have mini computers in our pockets with our email, sat-nav, search engines, diaries, our address book, weather forecasts, our e-books, a calorie-counter, a notebook, a camera, a calculator, our music, and our photos…not to mention all the social media sites we subscribe to. Oh, and you can make calls on it too! And I suppose we’ve learned to rely on this because modern life is so hectic that if we didn’t hand over some of the control to somebody (or something) else, we would probably have a meltdown due to the inability to cope. The problem lies in the fact that when I do relinquish control of certain responsibilities or empty my mind of some task or function, that memory of what it is I should be doing or how I should be doing it has been completely erased from my brain. It has literally gone and that responsibility now belongs to the phone – all it has to do is remind me.
But my dependency on my phone is what concerns me, my complete reliance and inability to think for myself without it. What day does my daughter do gymnastics, swimming, judo, ukulele, yoga? I don’t know, do I look like somebody who knows stuff? The phone will remind me! What day does the pay-a-week-in-advance school dinner-money have to be paid in? Who are you and why do you keep asking me these inane yet personal questions? And I told you, the phone will remind me! Sometimes I wonder where the future lies when it comes to this kind of technology. Will we have the function of the phone surgically embedded into our brains or grafted onto the lens of our eyeball to save the monotony that is switching the device on or carrying the thing around? Maybe we should put the phones away in a bag and leave them there, go out with friends and loved-ones and really talk to them without constantly checking our phones to see if anything else is happening in the world. I nearly wrote that with a straight face then. No, of course we can’t do that – the days when you can have an ordinary conversation without the crushing need to check your facts and say, ‘hang on a minute, I’m just going to google it’ have long gone.