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I am a smartphone addict and the world is going to hell.

 

nomophobia-1

Nomophobia — the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

A drastic change happened in my life this past year. I ditched my trusty old flip phone from the dinosaur age — the one I never texted on and barely used to even make phone calls — for a damn smartphone.

What the hell was I thinking?

Now I’m addicted to this soul-sucking piece of plastic and it feels sad. First sign I had a problem? If a few hours went by without checking it, my hands would sweat, my heart would pound and nothing would ease the subtle yet unnerving feeling I was missing out on something, anything (ohmygodsomethingishappeningIjustknowit!) unless I checked my phone.

The problem is, once you get that fix, you want another hit over and over again just to maintain.

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Before I went to bed at night?  Gotta check Facebook.

First thing after I had my morning coffee? Gotta check my email. And Twitter. Instagram. WordPress.

On my lunch break? Phone.

After the boss walks back into her office? Phone.

On my cigarette break? Phone. (Yes, I smoke the phone.)

While I’m on the phone? Phone.

It’s true, I’m cheating on my phone with another phone and sometimes I use them both at the same time and I don’t even care!

Now my life is a big, fat texting, emailing, messaging, instagraming, tweeting, facebooking hot mess of insanity.

I’m caught between desperately craving this fake pseudo-social interaction bullshit of likes and comments and tweets and twits, and realizing it’s all empty and useless for the most part.

Yes, it is.  Empty. Waste of precious time.

But Darla! you say, It keeps us connected! It’s social! C’monIt brings people together! The internet isn’t all bad! Some of it’s good!

No, it is not. We are all pathetic.

Fine, I’m pathetic. Because I’ve fallen for this crap. I remember when it all started too.

One day last semester I was sitting on a bench outside of class with other students, all of them looking down at their evil little phones. I was waiting for class to start so I did the natural thing we used to do in the olden days: I waited.

After a few minutes of pleasantly sitting there doing nothing, a 21-year-old classmate of mine asked “Darla? What’s wrong?”

“Huh?” I snapped out of my daydream.

“What’s wrong? You’re like…just staring off into space….” she laughed.

Oh my fucking god.

The other night my husband and I were sitting on the living room couch in the dark and both of us were hunched over, looking down at our respective tiny glowing rectangles. After a half hour of silence, we realized the TV wasn’t even on.

The TV wasn’t on! Has the world gone mad?

Last year, we used to pride ourselves on the fact we never texted. Now we’ve actually texted each other while in the same house before. Sure it was about dinner and I was very tired and didn’t want to get up to walk over to the next room to talk with my husband, but still.

We’ve fallen hard and fast for this addiction, and guess what folks, it’s real and it is sucking the life out of all of us.

Social communication has been reduced to bite-sized morsels of superficial bullshit we gobble up and spit out over and over again like monkeys pressing a button for food. Release the treat! Give it to me again! It’s never enough! Buzz! Buzz! BUZZZZ!!!

What have we lost? Eye contact. Long, meaningful conversations. The sense of touch. The ability to connect with another soul without a stupid machine wedged inbetween every interaction.

This summer I worked at a doctor’s office. My favorite parts of the day were the little moments I truly connected with a patient who is sick or dying or just lonely. Sometimes I’d rest my hand on their shoulder or help them up or give them a pat on the back and a smile. I looked into their eyes and I asked them how they were today and I actually wanted to know the answer.

The thing that surprised me most was the response. All people — young, old, women, men — their faces would suddenly soften, like a wall was slowly crumbling. Sometimes they’d start crying or telling me stories from the past or relating their dreams and fears to me. It was like a dam busted open wide. Because I actually took the time to talk to them face to face. Imagine.

And it made me think how little we actually communicate with each other today. Genuine communication about the stuff that goes on deep down inside of all of us. How much we all desperately need to know we’re not alone floating around out there, caught in some vapid interwebular net of flavor-of-the-month popularity.

But all things in moderation, right? So I’m starting to put the stupid phone down. I actually have to tell myself not to check it. I have to resist the urge all day.  I’ll admit, it reminds me of when I quit drinking coffee, it’s that much of an addiction to me.

Last week I went a few days without my phone. (I still texted my husband once though so I did cheat a little).

But I found I didn’t miss it, that hollow feeling of craving something I know is ultimately bad for the soul.

Fine, my soul, not yours. It’s just me. I’m sure you’re not addicted, right? First step is admitting you have a problem. Just resist the urge to tweet about it. Like I’m about to do with this post.

Sigh.

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Are you addicted to your phone? How many times a day do you check it? Be honest. If you’re not addicted, let me know any tips for quitting, like say, putting the phone on a table and smashing it to smithereens with a hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Family · Humor

Why Tony Bennett Never Calls My Mom

My 80-year-old mother has a very full, active life. She knits. She reads. She waits for the mail.

**crickets**
**crickets**

Oh — and she constantly complains to me about receiving prerecorded scam phone calls.

“He called me again the other day!” she scowls at me over her coffee mug.

“Who? Your boyfriend Tony Bennett?” We both laugh. This joke never gets old for either of us.

He's quite dreamy.
He is quite dreamy.

“No! The ro-but!” she yells.

“Oh! You mean you got another robocall?”

“Yes! The RO-BUT!”

Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.
Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.

“So did you tell him off?” I giggle because I already know the answer.

“He says to me ‘Good morning Senior Citizen!’ First off — how in the hell does he know I’m a senior citizen?! UP YOURS BUDDY! That’s what I told him too!”

“I’m sure he learned his lesson then.”

“And then he has the gall to say, ‘Congrats! You’ve won an all-expense paid trip to the Bahamas! All you have to do is press number five on your phone!’ And I says to him, ‘Oh yeah? How ’bout you press THIS buddy! Huh? How do you like them apples? Is there a number I can press to tell you to go to hell? Jeezum crow!'”

Phones have always been a source of aggravation for my mom, and not just because Tony Bennett never returns her calls. Yesterday she told us a story about how when she was a child, her family didn’t even have a phone. My stunned kids asked how they communicated without texting and she explained how they had to actually walk to the neighbor’s house to talk. This blew their little minds. People used to talk back then? My little mind was blown as well.  People used to walk back then?

“Imagine! When I was a teen, we didn’t even OWN a phone!” my mom said to my kids, a look of sheer terror spreading across their faces.  “If I wanted to get together with my friend, I had to walk three blocks to her house and hope to God she was home! And heaven forbid if there was an emergency, we’d have to walk all the way over to my aunt’s house on the other side of town because she had the only phone! She was always so smug about it too. Oh how we hated her and her stupid phone!”

Such a bitch.
Such a bitch.

Back in the 1940s, my mom’s father was an accountant for L.L. Bean — the actual man, not just the store itself. My grandparents and my mom lived in a house right next door to the famous hunting store. It was the same old house I grew up in as well. We were so close to the retail floor, I was able to sit at the kitchen table, eat my Cheerios and tell the New York tourist trying on the camouflage flannel long johns she should probably go up another size.

But I’m sure my grandfather didn’t think living so close to his workplace was such a good thing when the poor man didn’t even have a phone to screen calls from his pesky boss.

“And get this!” my mom continued.  “Whenever my dad was home on his days off and L.L. needed him to come in to work? He’d just throw open his office window and holler at my dad across the yard, ‘Hey Daniel! Get over here! I need you!'”

“Wow, that’s just insane,” I said. “You had windows back then?”

“Darla! Yes we had windows back then. We weren’t cavemen for god’s sake.”

“So Mom — why do you still phone me all day long when I live right next door to you?” (We currently live in a side by side duplex house and she calls me approximately 15-200 times a day to tell me her remote’s broken.)  “Why don’t you just yell at me through the window like L.L. Bean did in the good old days of yore?”

“Good point. Makes sense. Well, I’ll have to start doing that. And maybe that gall-darn ro-BUT man will stop bugging me. Then I’d free up my phone in case Tony calls!”

Never give up hope, Mom.
Good plan. Never give up hope, Mom.

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Humor

An Open Letter to My Smartphone

smartphone12

Dear Smartphone,

Before I met you, I used to waste time doing foolish things like thinking, staring off into space, and making eye contact with other human beings.

Now that you’re finally here, your sleek plastic body nestled in the palm of my hand, I realize how empty my world used to be.

You’ve got it all baby. I love everything about you: your warm glow, the magical way you respond to the slightest of my touch, your ability to send jolts of pleasure down my spine when you buzz in my pocket, serenading me with the soothing ringtone of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.

Soon we became inseparable.

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No longer was I forced to mindlessly enjoy life as it happens in real time. Finally, the other kids and their smartphones quit making fun of me for just sitting there, drooling, all alone with my thoughts. I mean, for god’s sake! Who does that?

Lunch break? Play Candy Crush Saga! Waiting for the kids at the bus stop? Hey, baby! Why not check your Facebook news feed! Driving the car down the freeway? Catch up on season 3 of Louis on Netflix! Shhh…just drive with your knees, it’s all right…

You seduced me, Smartphone. I’ve got it bad for you. Real bad.

Slide1

But lately you’ve been sending me mixed signals.

You rang the other day and I didn’t know what to do! Do I swipe with my finger? To the left or right? Do I press down and hold until you buzz for three seconds, then swipe in a counterclockwise motion?  I’m left to wonder, what does this all mean? Where is our relationship going long-term?

I knew things between us were hitting the skids when I realized something startling about you. A deep dark secret about your true identity.

Don’t lie to me, Smartphone. Just don’t. It’s too painful.

How could I have been so blind? How did I not see the real you? Why didn’t you tell me about your past earlier?

Admit it! Admit it to me, you lying smug bastard!

You’re a phone! That’s it! A goddamned phone!

That’s designed to make phone calls!

To other people.

Y’know…so they can talk to each other…

Remember that, Smartphone? Heh? Remember communication?! The exchange of ideas? Isn’t that the point of all this heartache?

Pfft. You don’t care anymore, do you? When I needed you desperately, you let me down.

Today I had to call my son at home on you and I was lost. How do I make a fricking phone call?! I tried asking you for help, but you led me down a path strewn with meaningless apps and icons. I knew I was too old for someone so young and vibrant as you. What was I thinking?

And more important — how in the hell do I talk on you? Do I put you to my ear? My mouth? Please, tell me! Why must you torture me so with such ambivalence?How dare you make something so easy so complicated! Haven’t I done enough for you?

I bought you everything! Even that sweet sequined sleeve you always admired! I gave you funky ringtones! I devoted my entire world to you! And for what?

You have ripped my heart out, Smartphone. I can’t take this anymore. I’m going back to him. Yes, my old flip phone. He knows how to treat me right.

I’m sorry. But it’s over.

***[buzz-buzz]***

“…I like big butts and I cannot lie! You other brothers can’t deny!”

Oh, Smartphone! You remembered! An email! I have an email! And a facebook notification!

Aw! How could I ever stay mad at you? You sly devil.

I love you.

Forever and ever.

Just tell me how to turn you off.

Family · Humor

In Your Eyes I Can See Forever…and Dinner

What did you want for dinner tonight?
I don't know, maybe meatloaf and potatoes?
We're outta potatoes, how about spaghetti?
Sure, sounds good.

Sometimes you might see them in a crowded restaurant. An older couple, married for decades, eating their meal in complete silence. Not a single word exchanged. The husband busy chewing his steak and gulping his beer; the wife busy clenching her jaw, sipping her wine and gazing wearily off to the side to meet your eyes with a  ‘this will be you one day’ look.

I used to think, how sad. Now I know better. It’s not simply that they exist in a loveless union or that the resentment they feel for each other has completely snuffed out every bit of desire to communicate. Oh, no, this couple just might really get each other. So content with the other’s existence that words aren’t necessary. It’s a safe place. A place as comfy and worn as an old pair of ratty slippers. My husband and I have been married 12 years and we’ve recently faced reality: we are comfy, worn and ratty in more ways than we’d care to admit.

In the beginning of every relationship, things are fresh and new; everything you learn about the other an exhilarating discovery. You’re giddy with love, lust and the sheer disbelief there is someone out there that actually wants to spend time with you. You get married, you spend every waking moment gushing and babbling about your love for the other. This honeymoon period may last a few years, then the stresses of kids, mortgages and jobs start to consume every aspect of your relationship. Busy schedules leave both of you exhausted. This is why communicating telepathically is such a rewarding and worthwhile experience in any married couples’ life.

Long ago my husband and I had given up on fighting or yelling or nagging (well, sometimes I truly can’t help the nagging part, it’s a necessary evil). But really, we were just wasting precious energy. If we kept up with those things, we’d never be able to find the strength to reach for the remote or walk to the fridge for a beer.

When we first fell in love, we were both full of endless chatter, enthusiastic about every topic. Now? Well, we still want to talk, but sometimes we’re just too burnt out to do anything more than grunt or nod. Add to that the constant interruptions from our kids, we found having a simple conversation was almost impossible. So naturally, our interactions have slowly developed over the years, finally progessing to the point where we only communicate our innermost thoughts with subtle facial expressions. We are so in sync now, we just read each other’s mind–almost like we share one brain. Which is good because mine is almost gone.

Here’s a quick rundown of our 14 year relationship:

The Early Years–just dating and full of nonstop mind-numbing chatter

Him: So, what kind of music do you like? I’m really into Metallica…

Me: Ooh, wow, yeah I love Metallica! Well, just Enter Sandman, that’s the only song I know, but I love them soooo much! They like, totally rock!

Him: Yeah, totally, dude!

Me: They are SO cool.

Him: Totally!  I think I have a track here somewhere…

Me: OOH! WOW! Yeah! Once I almost saw them in concert, but my roommate, like, totally flaked so instead I saw Aerosmith.

Him: Get out! I love them!

Me: Yeah! And this one time, I was in the third row and I swear to GOD Steven Tyler winked at me!

Him: NO WAY!

Me: BLAH! Blahblahblahblibbityblibbityblahblahblahblahblah…

Him: Blahblahblah?

Me: Blah-blah BLAH blah blah! Blahblahblahblah! BLAH! Blahblahblahblahblah—
(etc. etc.)

Mid-marriage–about seven years in, conversations getting more blunt and to the point

(Metallica’s Enter Sandman blaring from husband’s stereo)

Me: Oh my god! Turn that crap off!

Him: What? I thought you liked them!

Me: No. I never said that. God, turn it off!

Him: No way, you always get to listen to your music. Aerosmith! Pssbbbt. God, they suck!

Me: Well, I can’t stand it! Turn it off!

Him: Don’t you dare turn it off! Don’t you dare–

Me: Hmmph! (turning off stereo)

Him: Gah!

Me:  Gah!

Married 12 Years–verbal communication not necessary

Husband pops Metallica CD into car radio.

Me: (glares)

Him: (pushes play and sheepishly raises his eyebrows)

Me: (glares, flares nostrils)

Him: (smiles cautiously)

Me: (narrows eyes)

Him: (slumps, takes Metallica CD and throws it out car window)

Me: (tilts chin up, smiles smugly)

See? So much energy was saved with a simple exchange of looks and gestures. Silence is golden. And this works with even the most complicated thoughts. Just imagine the secret discussions you and your spouse could have and no one would be the wiser!

With this next scenario, our secret language of slight gestures/expressions are in parenthesis. I will do the translating of our inner thoughts in italics for those out there who are telepathically-impaired or haven’t been married that long.

Discussing Easter plans with the in-laws:

Mother-in-law: “So what are you guys doing for Easter?”

Me: (side glance at husband) They are not coming to our house for dinner, we don’t have enough room and I am not going to cook.

Him: (raises one eyebrow) What if I do all the cooking?

Me: (opens mouth,  tips head to the side, rubs forehead, glares) You can’t be serious! You know damn well I would be the one left cleaning up all the mess and then you’ll run off to talk with your parents while I am stuck watching the kids and listening to my mother discuss her lactose-intolerance!

Him: (leans head back, scratches chin, sideways glance) Okay, so what if we have dinner at their house? (shrugs) My dad can cook, my mom can watch the kids and you can go for a walk by yourself, maybe catch up on some of your reading or go grab a cup of coffee? (rubs stomach) I know Starbucks has that cinnamon dolce latte you love so much…

Me: (smiles, rubs chin, eyes twinkle) Okay, sounds good. (leans forward, narrows eyes, flares nose) But I swear to God if your parents bring up politics in any way, shape or form I am outta there in a heartbeat (raises eyebrows, half smile) and tell your dad to make that German potato salad I like, (wrinkles nose) but make sure he goes easy on the pepper, I don’t do spicy. (glares, nods slightly) You know I don’t do spicy.

Him: (smiles) Done deal.

Mother-in-law: “Okay! So, it’s a plan. You’ll eat over at our place and Dad will make you the potato salad with no pepper!”

Both of us: (mouths drop open) Wow, she is GOOD.

Mother-in-law: “I know. Been married 42 years.”