Your phone’s in your hand again, isn’t it?
What’s your background like? Somebody you love on there, I bet. A photo of a holiday maybe, or a celebrity. Perhaps a quote that inspires you. I like when we use our phone’s for good.
But you’ve unlocked it and suddenly that wallpaper has dissipated, no longer able to provide you with the sincerest of intentions, because you’re not just glancing at your screen to check the time and get that hit of joy upon seeing it. Now you’ve entered the unexitable arena. The app-sized multiverse of madness. The screen into the void.
You don’t even think about it, do you?
This instinctive, second nature that takes over us as soon as we unlock our phones. On autopilot you tap the areas that need tapping and convince yourself you’re scrolling through something and taking a digital journey somewhere, even though nothing has actually changed. You haven’t moved. Your screen hasn’t elongated. You’re still here — not that you’d notice. Can you even name three objects in the room with you?
Why did you even pick it up?
You’ve got 33 unread messages to respond to. I bet you can’t even remember what you were talking about in half of them. You just refreshed the feed again, didn’t you? On purpose? Or is your muscle memory as prominent as your respiratory system? Sometimes you tap your notebook thinking it’s your phone. You feel unexpectedly dejected when it doesn’t light up. When did we get so reliant on the sheen of our screens?
Has it always been the first thing you grab?
What would happen if you just didn’t take your phone with you today? Leave it at home, in a drawer, power off, take the battery out, boil it in acid, whatever. Sure, if you get attacked on your way to work, how can you call for help? It’s almost like we’ve only ever known how to communicate with our fingertips, not our vocal chords. We’re silent in and amongst this tireless digital noise — yet we have a lot to say, don’t we?
Your body physically reacted at the sound of your phone again, didn’t it?
A memory has popped up on the lockscreen. 2009 it says — have we really been attached to them for so long? You smile because you remember it. I wonder if in years to come, notifications will prod us with the memories of the here and now, today, as you stare down at your screen mindlessly and endlessly. There will be nothing to remember then.
How many minutes have passed since you unlocked it, would you say?
Be honest. Take a proper guess. I bet you’ll say something much less than it actually is. Time runs weirdly in the virtual realm. It’s distorted. Disasterous. We age up only when Facebook tells us we can, we stop only when our batteries run low, we slip out and beyond the present moment (the past, it’s always the past) and into this purgatory that we call Instagram. This is where we wait for a while, for an eternity, until we have that brief and fleeting epiphany and suddenly, we delete our accounts.
You regret that, don’t you?
That niggling, awkward feeling that lives in the empty space of your palm is the suffocating weight of where your phone once lived. But don’t worry. There’s features now that can undo account deletion. It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re back online. You exist again.
It’s all such a big shame.
Sitting at a dinner table across from my cousin, we chatted away for hours, uninterrupted by the coded cries for attention. They persisted, but we resisted. An elderly lady sat adjacent to us leaned in with the sincerest of smiles and said, “it’s so lovely to see young people talking to each other, no phones in hand.” It was so heartfelt and empowering. It felt right. It felt good. It felt real. I still felt embarrassed that my phone was out and in view on the table.
When did you become so obsessed with it?
When did everybody? Don’t blame yourself, it’s human nature to be engulfed whole by what’s engulfed the whole world. We feel bad if we miss out. We feel worse if we join in. It’s a lose-lose situation but hey! That’s okay! Because if we sign up to this spam account then we can win a million dollars and a Persian prince! For nothing but a montly fee of half your savings! You don’t think you want that.
Of course you don't. Why would you?
All we really want is to be here. In the present. Within the moment. We just want that to be enough. Would you really miss your phone if nobody else was on it, either? No, I suspect you wouldn’t. Nobody would. It’s conformity plugged into charge, and our brain spaces are the socket. I think it’s time to unplug now.
You might find it feels like switching off the very life support machine that keeps you upright. Like removing your phone from your hand is the same as tearing your heart right out from behind your rib cage. But the only real cage is the one that’s made with an OLED display. It’s blinding. And it’s binding.
It’s also super weak and fragile. Every contract can be broken. You haven’t signed your soul to the devil, only a service provider. But what the hell kind of service have they even provided? Your brain is clean enough, it needs no more brainwashing.
You feel it don’t you?
You feel your mind slipping back into it’s analogue ways and isn’t it just sensational?
Begin by switching to analogue clocks. The electrics blew the other day at dad’s house and I realised that without them, I had no idea what the time was. The oven clock, the microwave, phone out of battery: how was I to ever know? We cannot rely on the digital age. It’s not immortal, it’s just cocky enough to pretend that it is.
Turn to your journal if you have new ideas to share. Speak to that checkout lady who purple hair if you want to feel a social connection. Hang out with cats, not cat videos. Follow your dreams, not memes.
You like that thought, don’t you?
It’s inspiring, isn’t it? Your eyes lit up just then.
You seem to glow at the notion that you’re not stuck behind the glass — you’re capable of shattering it. Let it pierce you, let yourself bleed, let it be a reminder that you’re real again. No pauses on life, no restarts, so no regrets, okay?
Put your phone down now. You’ve had enough. Forget hands-free phones, we’re seeking phone-free hands. So drop it. Flex your fingers. You feel that? That empty space? The air above your palm? That’s the blank page calling. That’s life, waiting for you to reach out and grab it.
Yeah, you’re right. You’ve made the room for it now. So what are you going to do next?
Ah, good choice. That’s what I’m going to do, too.
About the Creator
I’m a writer, a storyteller, a lunatic. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer, turning moments into multiverses and making homes out of them.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!