How do you feel when you realize you have forgotten your phone at home? The majority of us would rather turn back and be late than leave it behind for the day. We are so deeply attached, that many even check an email, text, or call during the night. For those who need an alarm to wake, do you use an actual alarm clock? I recently realized that I no longer even own one. There is now a phone in what was once the clock’s place. Our phones are typically the last things we interact with before we go to sleep, and the first we look at when we wake up: a true extension of ourselves, physically and emotionally.
You should be aware that I am a 35 year old, self-diagnosed ambivert. The latter part of that means that characteristically, I am both an introvert and extrovert. The former, that I have a relationship (status: it’s complicated) with technology that is very unique to my particular age group: I was a teenager when AOL chat rooms were popular, which produced a very serious pen pal (15/m/Wisconsin) that would send me Pearl Jam bootleg cassette tapes accompanied by 10+ page letters. I would reply with at least one more page each time. That seems like a good place to mark the beginning of the Internet as we know it today.
The point is, during my formative years the Internet was, unbeknownst to us, growing into something all encompassing and unavoidable. We still had a dedicated spot in the house where we had to wait to connect to the outside world. Otherwise, and more often than not, we would physically go out and join it. Especially when the free AOL hours were depleted (two plugs already — I deserve credit and royalties for their comeback). This is all to say that I often struggle with the idea of the Internet, and in extension smartphones and social media, as necessities and not just brief and innocent entertainment providers. After much contemplation, I have ceded to these devices. And like all the best love stories, it turns out they’re the companions that we were never looking for, but have always needed.
My mobile companion and I met in January 2012. Admittedly, I was a late bloomer (re: stubborn). For years, friends attempted to explain what I was missing out on, and how I’d “just know” when I found “the one.” As anyone might do after a difficult breakup, I guarded my heart… by avoiding Facebook and Gmail invites for the comforts of MySpace and Hotmail. Some time passed, and my confidence was gradually restored, open to possibilities. I decided to accept a date with a top wireless service store and found myself falling hard and fast. In no time, my new companion and I were going to all the Facebook events and getting back in touch with friends and flings from my many years living all across the country. The extrovert in me was brought out, and I was now finding ways to travel more (Google Maps, Uber, Airbnb), and share my art and experiences (Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Trover). The often-introverted part of me was happy when we were simply having dinner (Grubhub) and watching a movie (Netflix, YouTube) on the couch. Extroverts even enjoyed this, later dubbing it “Netflix & Chill”. I even felt more mature and responsible as we searched for new jobs (LinkedIn), multi-tasked (Gmail), paid bills on time (BofA), and ordered replacement waste bags for the dog (Amazon).
I am unashamed in telling you that our relationship was every bit physical as it was emotional. I was feeling more and more emotionally rewarded with increasing likes on Instagram and Facebook, and finding new music to get me through the long work days (GooglePlay, iTunes). But on top of that, we shared everything and went virtually everywhere together: breakfast (Starbucks), bike rides (MapMyRide), exotic vacations (United, HotelTonight, WhatsApp), and classes (Groupon). We were always hand-in-hand and face-to-face. Often even in the bathroom together. I never went to bed without my companion.
That brings me back to the point that our phones are now embedded into our lives, a true extension of our minds and limbs. They are not only a source of entertainment but a tool that helps foster social relationships while providing an invaluable resource: utility. The tool is already there, and any brand can tap into the needs of its consumers by simply reaching out — through everyone’s constant companion.
Musings & misadventures, companion in tow: @jodidangerous