My phone is more than just a phone to me. It’s a large portion of my livelihood, and integral part of my business, the connection between myself and my family, and a bank of memes that I have carefully curated throughout the years in order to provide myself with the perfect reaction to any and all text messages.
I love my phone. I couldn’t live without my phone. I also hate the sight of it and often consider throwing it out of the window whenever I’m in a moving car.
I remember my first phone with nostalgic fondness. My Mum picked up two classic Nokias for myself and my brother, and we spent the whole afternoon playing snake and wasting credit by texting each other whilst in the same room. I used to spend hours laboriously searching for the number patterns to tap in and create custom ringtones for my favourite pop songs (100% there was some Sugababes in there), and who didn’t feel swish as fuck having that animated butterfly as their wallpaper, am I right?
We were the last generation for which a phone wasn’t an expected accompaniment to growing up, and despite their now practically archaic technology, the act of even owning a phone felt like a genuine privilege.
I can trace my years of growing up through the phones that I owned: first, the classic series of Nokias, then the Motorola Razr (pink, of course), then an LG KS360 (that’s the slide up one with the blue QWERTY keyboard), then the Sony Ericsson Walkman, then the Blackberry, and then finally the iPhone. I’ve probably missed some out in between, but even listing those models now, I could align the different phones with different styles, music and boys that I liked at the time.
Part of the charm of our old phones was their quirks. Creating ringtones on the Nokias, for example, or bluetoothing each other songs on our Walkmans that we’d illegally downloaded from Limewire the night before. The Razr was designed to epically end conversations with the most dramatic example of hanging up ever, and who could forget the frantic fever pitch of “accidentally” adding your crushes BB Pin and waiting to see how they’d react?
Now, our phones do everything. They’re our banks, our cameras, our TVs, our retailers, and arguably, least of all, our device for making calls. We use them for everything from popping our friend's birthday into our diaries to ensure we don’t forget, to ordering a last minute personalised card from Moonpig when we inevitably do.
Hands up anybody that still has a yearly calendar hanging up in their homes? That used to be a rite of passage for every passing year, either hoping that you’d be given a decent one for Christmas or scrabbling around in the sales to get one at 80% off. And what did we even write on our calendars then? “Summer holidays” and “Jess’s sleepover night”?
More, more, more - the more our hand-held computers can do, the better. And of course, in a lot of ways, I love this. The way technology has advanced in such a short amount of time means that career paths have opened up which before never seemed possible - take mine, for example. It’s also allowed masses of young people to start families and continue working from home, or even to set up their own businesses instead of climbing the rungs of the traditional workplace. It’s allowed people to express themselves and explore their own creativity. It’s connected people who may have never found one another. From innovation to recreation, there isn’t a corner of possibility that hasn’t been explored.
I love that my phone has allowed me to shape a career which I still, to this day, sometimes feel is a little too good to be true. I love that it allows me to stay in touch with the people that I cherish. I love that it’s allowed me to share a wealth of horrific fashion faux pas that in the future, my children will no doubt rip the shit out of me for. It’s opened our worlds up. It’s incredible.
But I also hate how much our phones now take away from us. Now that our devices are capable of doing more, we’re also expected to give more. More of our time, more of our energy - more of our clarity.
The majority of us work from the same handful of models, so we know exactly what one another is capable of doing, and what amount of time is needed. Where once we might have said ‘I don’t really have time to proof that today, I’m travelling’ and have it accepted as a given, we all now know that we can open documents on our phones, connect to the Cloud, add comments to PDFs and CC in the whole team in a response, all whilst, essentially, doing something else.
Our technology has become more instant, and we’re expected to become more instant alongside it. Even those stolen toilet minutes that we used to cherish for a breather and moment of peace are now interrupted by messages in the work WhatsApp group, and a series of ‘I might as well just quickly...'.
And with every message, comment, email, alert and reminder that asks something of you, you lose a little piece of your private self. You lose a moment of uninterrupted thought - of peace. Do we ever allow ourselves the time to properly think anymore, without subconsciously tapping and picking up another task in the meantime?
The one thing I hate about my phone is that it has made texting my friends and family a second-hand chore. I spend my days freelancing and blogging, spinning plates and dipping my fingers into a lot of different pies, my mind constantly darting between a number of businesses, collaborations and workloads. At the end of it, there’s not much left of myself to give. I don’t want to spend any more time on my phone. But the trouble is, we’re now all so preoccupied with the impending doom of digital data, that finding time for face-to-face interactions is difficult. We’re busy, and it’s hard, so we get stuck in these forced but genuine dialogues of sorry-babe-didn’t-see-this’s and when are we both free’s? Where once we would have agreed to hang out and then sent a simple smiley from our Nokias to confirm (or flirt), it’s now all too easy to succumb to the barrage of red notifications and send a fleeting cancellation that damages our tangible relationships.
My phone is more than just a phone to me. I love it. I hate it. And sometimes I wonder - what would my life be like without it?
My alarm didn’t go off yesterday morning. I blinked myself into existence in the dark, already suspicious that I hadn’t...