Thursday, August 5, 2010

Homo iPhonus

Clayton, CA: sunshine and swimming pools, bicycles and the Bookmobile. And an Atari 2600. And—that's what we called it—"smear the queer." And our Sport Court, and catamarans made of two skateboards, bound together by our interlocked legs, and the long Mt. Wilson Way descent, ending with a crash on my front yard grass.

All the clichés of boyhood. I lived them.

So unless I was mesmerized by a book, which happened often enough, the ambition of my life, just about every day, was to get out of the house and not return until sundown.

I'm talking about the experience of being told what time you had to be back, and saying Yep! and disappearing, unreachable, for a few hours. That's what it meant, I thought, to be a man—to be free. I was gone. I was what my parents wanted me to be, what I aspired to be: I was on my own. I knew they couldn't contact me, even if they wanted to, and that knowledge was glorious, not least because it allowed me to give myself completely to my adventures.

That boy is now dead.

Not because of kids and bills, work, all the standard excuses, but because seven years ago, I got myself a goddamn cellphone.

Now, worse yet, I have an iPhone.

As a result, I've ceased to exist. What remains is an identity that's been disseminated into countless machines, leashed to innumerable nodes, always obtainable, never alone (I mean that seriously: never alone), interconnected, spread out, scattered. The experience of my scattering is so intense and so fundamental to my sense of myself that I am no longer capable of solitude. I no longer live in the moment, present, complete. I always feel—even now, the iPhone silent beside me, poised—that some part of me is elsewhere. I am, to a certain extent, always already somewhere else, where I'm wanted, where I might be wanted, where I could call, where I might be emailed or dialed, texted or tweeted. I live in a continual state of anticipation.

That anticipation is not, as the saying goes, killing me. Instead, I have become my anticipation. I am an Anticipating Self. I am a little bit present everywhere; as a consequence, I am fully present nowhere.

I confess that I mourn my metamorphosis. I hate this connected self. I despair in the knowledge that I no longer cohere.

I yearn to be alone again—to be capable of being alone. Only by relearning the independence of solitude will I again be capable of being with someone else.


  1. Well said. I too feel like a slave, forever chained to society. Wirelessly tied down to everyone and everywhere.

    I miss the freedom of solitude. I wish I could disconect, but if I dare turn the phone off I will surely be punnished.

    "why didn't you answer your phone" or "where's that response to the memo I sent out" will be the start of the typical toung lashings that are sure to come.

    My friend, as soon as we accepted these devices into our lives for convienence, we handed over our freedom.

    So I raise my glass now and toast, here's to the beginning of the end of inocence, as my four year old asks me for her own iphone.


  2. We become the slave of these communicating devices. Like the above said, " forever chained to society".

    Not only the cell phone, but also facebook. I have an experience that my relatives required me to accept their friend requests, which is so annoying. I feel like losing my privacy and freedom.

    To me, we are no longer capable of solitude since technology advances, but it doesn't mean we can get out of loneliness by those
    communicating technology.