Full disclosure: I am a smartphone addict.
Fuller disclosure: There’s a high probability that you may be one too.
If it makes you feel any better, you are far from alone. In fact, if you’re currently out in public, take a moment and look around. Chances are, you’re surrounded by addicts.
I blame Steve Jobs.
The beginning of the end can be traced to 2007 with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone. Sure, scholars could argue that the seeds of addiction were planted 13 years earlier when IBM created the Simon, the original smart mobile phone. And sure there were other iterations in the years leading up to ’07. But it was the sexiness, the sleekness, the user friendliness of Jobs’ iPhone that turned the mobile device into something more. A phenomenon. And a disease.
The disease didn’t infect me until later. Until it became absolutely vital for my job. I had originally sworn off smartphones. I was perfectly content with my simple flip phone. It fit perfectly in my pocket. The iPhone felt like a brick. At least that was my initial impression when, in an effort to catch me up with the 21st century, my bosses assigned me one for work.
My initial impression was kicked to the curb once the obvious positives came to light. The ease of use was amazing. Texting wasn’t a chore any more. If I needed to type the word yes, I could just type y-e-s. I didn’t have to punch 9 three times, 3 two times, and 7 four times. I could check emails, the web, and this new fangled thing called social media without any hassle. I didn’t need to be at my desk for anything. Life was made simpler.
The disease took hold of me shortly after. It sunk its teeth into my veins and slowly drained me of life. It ate at me from the inside until my brain was fried and my eyes turned bloodshot red. Soon, I couldn’t put the phone down. Not when Twitter was offering me real-time updates on the football game or Facebook was posting cute pictures of dogs making friends with cats. I was so focused on my phone that I had created a shell around me. I could completely ignore my surroundings and not think twice about it. That also meant I could completely ignore others around me and not care. To be fair, it didn’t matter much. Most everyone else was too focused on their phones to notice I was there.
I knew I had a real problem when I began scurrying off to the bathroom at home just so I could check Twitter in peace. I’d rush in, lock the door, sit on the toilet and scroll through the feed. I had succumbed to the dark side. I had become what I had always despised and I couldn’t even rationalize my actions.
I thought I could curb the addiction cold turkey. I was naïve. I’d put the phone down, do something to distract myself, but the itch was always more powerful than I’d give it credit for. What kind of useless yet entertaining nugget was I neglecting by not checking my phone? Was that a ding? Had someone tried to text me? What non-vital email was I missing out on? I needed to run to the bathroom and take a hit.
Except here’s the thing. Once when I finally unlocked the door and walked out, who did I find? Baby Boy and Baby Girl waiting for me on the other side. Imagine my embarrassment.
What had I really missed out on while checking my feeds? Time. Time with them. The rhetorical question came at me like an unavoidable speeding train: Was it worth it?
My wife sent me this article: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/05/07/how-to-miss-a-childhood/. A highly recommended read. The post describes in blunt terms how the repercussions of our technologically addicted behavior directly affects our relationship with our children. When I read it I wanted to crawl into a hole. I could feel the guilt rising in my throat like acid. It made me sick – which was interesting because none of it was surprising and all of it was common sense. But to read it was to acknowledge the problem. Those moments are always sobering.
The good news is, I believe there’s still hope.
If you avoid technology you get left behind. To deny it is to deny progress. Yet, regret is a powerful tool. I don’t want any regrets, especially when it comes to my kids. In this case that promise is two-fold. I don’t want to miss out on their lives because of technology and I don’t want them to miss out on their lives because of technology.
Believe the words I’m looking for here are accountability and responsibility. Can I wait until they’re asleep before checking the phone? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes. Will my relationship with them and perhaps their relationship with others benefit from this simple action? A resounding yes. Not just for tomorrow, not just for a week from now, but years from now when Baby Girl and Baby Boy meet up with friends, go on a date or have dinner with a prospective client. They will hopefully walk into those occasions confident that they can hold an actual conversation, an exchange of meaningful ideas, rather than sit through the dead air that comes when a group of smartphone addicts pick at their pizza while checking out the latest Kim Kardashian emoji.
When it’s their turn to have children perhaps they’ll remember a lesson I continue to remind myself: To be emotionally invested in the moment takes a focus that’s easily lost with every new text message.
If the lesson doesn’t sink in then I will have no one to blame but myself. Because it will mean that I did not set the right example. Because it will mean that, for however hard I tried, in the end my kids did as I did and not as I said.
I am a smartphone addict.
But at least now I’m awake.
Copyright 2016 Damien Alameda. All Rights Reserved.