It’s 1am and I’m wide awake. A huge part of me wants to focus on the soft comfort of my pillow, but there’s a red light nearby seducing me with a slow, rhythmic wink. Is it a Facebook notification or a Messenger note? Maybe it’s an emergency. Maybe I should just check it, just quickly, just for a second, and if it’s not important I’ll go straight back to sleep.
Okay, I admit it – I’m addicted to my smartphone. My thumbs are sore from constant button pushing, I’m tired from late nights seeking out the latest Solitaire thrill, my relationships are going downhill due to general disinterest in real conversation and I almost got run over by a bus last week while crossing the road.
Checking my Facebook at the same time as traversing a busy highway was a rookie error, yes, but at the time it seemed essential to catch up with all those banal yet brilliant status updates. ‘Gareth I-only-went-out-with-him-once-yet-felt-too-awkward-to-reject-his-friend-request McKinnon is really disappointed with someone special in his life’ (mental note: that’s why I didn’t fancy him).
‘Real people!’ my friend shouted at me the other day, her disgustingly lifelike hand waving in my face. ‘There are real people in front of you!’ ‘Huh?’ I replied, not really listening. Once upon a time, I only used electronic media to arrange to meet someone in person, but I now seem to have ‘friendships’ with people that involve hardly any face-time.
‘You look super-cute in this photo,’ a girl I’ve met once commented on my Facebook profile picture the other day. ‘Want to meet at Caribou?’ While I’m flattered (I’ll wear that top again), I can’t help but be a little creeped out: all this communication banging around the ether is starting to get old.
I’m sure pure consumption wasn’t what the great Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell had in mind when he invented the telephone back in 1874. You’d think having constant access to email, internet and picture-sharing would improve communication. Yet I’m constantly on my phone, fielding calls, emails, tweets, messenger chat and text messages, and yet I never really seem to be sending or receiving anything important.
The other day I received a ‘voice note’ from someone, a 30-second sound snippet of ramble – and it made me miss the days of the answer-machine-free landline. iPhones, BlackBerries, Google Phones and all the things like them are the machine guns of human connection: prolific and aimless. I’m beginning to feel nostalgic for the precise and manageable days of the sniper (yes, the now retro telephone).Yet, preaching aside, I’m not ready for recovery. You will one day prise my increasingly app-filled phone from my cold, dead hands.