I have a new phone. His name is Sam. He’s very smart. He’s a smart phone. He’s Sam, as in “Sam-I-am,” the nettlesome character in Dr. Suess’ story, “Green Eggs and Ham”. As in,
I do not like
I do not like Sam. At least not yet.
Sam is a hand-me-up. When you’re my age, you start getting things your kids don’t want any more. My daughter is 26, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she has a cell telephone surgically attached to her ear, as often as it hangs out there. The cell phone company told her that she was due for an upgrade and so she got a new phone. I got Sam. Sam is an iPhone 6, I think. Most people love their iPhones. I’m enthusiastically meh.
My old phone was a hand-me-up too, a charming little flip-top gizmo that I never got around to naming. I got it out of her cell phone graveyard, a drawer in the bottom of a bedside table, when my prior phone got sick after getting caught in a rainstorm. She has dozens of old phones in there. It’s like a museum. I liked that little phone. It went everywhere with me.
Sam is too big. And flat. And looks nothing like a phone. I feel funny, self-conscious, when I hold him near my cheek. But Sam is capable! Sam can do lots of things I never dreamed of, mostly things I never need doing.
My old phone basically did two things, one of which I found useful. It made phone calls and had a camera. I used the phone. I never used the camera. Nobody wants to see my pictures.
Sam’s close relationship to the Internet brings me the world at an instant right in my pocket. Email. Facebook. Text messages. GPS. Twitter. I don’t want the world in my pocket.
I’ve read that smart phones are more addictive than heroin. Sam beeps at me if I haven’t paid enough attention to him. “Hey, Michael!” he screams. “Look at me, damnit!” Studies show that people look at their cell phones 150 times a day. That’s not enough for Sam. I think Sam sends me messages telepathically when I’m asleep.
“I want to enrich you, Michael. I want to make sure you never miss a moment of your life without me. I want everybody who sees you to know that you are always ready at any moment to record something insignificant and share it with the entirety of the developed world. If you’re not vigilant, there are people in your news feed that may know inconsequential information that you don’t know. There are cats around the world that are doing cute things that you are at dire risk of missing.” Sam always wants to help me that way.
“Michael,” he drones on, subliminally, “if you receive a text message and fail to return it within microseconds, do you know what could happen? Best case, they’ll consider you irrelevant. Worst case, they might think you’re DEAD! How can you ever be happy if you don’t share your smile with all your friends and share in the happiness that you know comes from knowing your friends know you’re happy?”
I walk several miles each day. Before I had Sam, I was forced to endure nature. I had to hear birds singing and the sound of the water trickling over the rocks in the nearby stream. If I got bored, I could call a friend. I hate holding Sam near my cheek. He feels like the electronic version of a nicotine patch.
I watch other walkers and they have Sam’s siblings riding their cheeks. I see pairs of young women, running together, each paying scant attention to the other, but immersed in their personal audible hyperspace, ear-budded to their phones.
Walkers stop to take selfie photos to share with their Internet network of friends, many of whom I’m sure they don’t even know, asserting their pertinence.
Once photos are uploaded to their social media, they watch eagerly, expectantly, hoping that others see them seeing wonderful things and feeling wonderful about people seeing them seeing wonderful things.
My generation has given birth to a new species, homo iPhonicus. Members of the species are evolutionally required to post continually, lest they cease to exist. Nobody wants irrelevancy.
Maybe I’m shortchanging the opportunity in front of me by so tightly channeling my inner Luddite. After all, Sam is smart. Sam can play music for me. But doing that chews up my data plan.
When I’m traveling, Sam can help me find an address. But I ride a motorcycle and can’t see him. Sam can…Listen, I’ve gotta go. Sam is beeping at me. I need to see what useless information I might be missing, unable to share it with others. I’ll get back to you soon. If I have time.
Meanwhile, I’m developing a hunger for green eggs and ham.
Michael Abraham is a businessman and author. He was raised in Christiansburg and lives in Blacksburg.