Last year, my girlfriend at the time and I were in the middle of a Breaking Bad marathon when we paused between episodes so that she could go to the restroom.
As if reacting to a natural instinct, like removing a hand from a hot stove, I immediately lunged for my shiny, white iPhone that had been resting patiently on the coffee table in front of me. Without so much as a second thought, I buried my head in the device and started scrolling through a long list of tweets I had missed while mindlessly staring at a much larger screen for most of the morning. I was halfway through a 140 character article on the Iranian elections when she came back.
“You seriously have a problem.” She pointed out as she sat down a full person’s width away from me.
“What do you mean?” I asked without looking up.
“You’re addicted to that thing!” She accused, pointing to the small device in my hand and glaring at it as though it was a curvy, red head, with a master’s in astrophysics . “It’s pathetic. I’m right here and you’d rather play with your phone.”
I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I had always thought I used the device pretty sparingly when we were together. And the alternative in this situation was sitting in my small, silent apartment, listening to her in the bathroom.
Yet, despite my logic, she had a point. It was pretty sad that, after watching television for four hours straight, I couldn’t go more than a few seconds without absorbing some other form of digital media through my face. There are plenty of other situations where this is inappropriate, like while you’re on a date, engaged in a conversation with a friend, or in the middle of having sex. You might get dumped, ruin a perfectly good bonding experience or pull a muscle.
On the other hand, my girlfriend had never owned an iPhone. She never knew what it was like to run her fingers over its glass face or clutch its expensive-feeling exterior. She never knew what it was like to carry a four ounce, aluminum block of power with a built-in A7 chip in her pocket all day (though I always claimed I was just happy to see her).
The day I purchased my first smart phone was the day the palm of my hand developed an intelligent tumor. I never had it removed, only upgraded from time to time. I have it to this day. It goes where I go. It sleeps where I sleep. And even when I do my best to ignore it, it’s always there, begging for my attention.
My technology addiction is hard to explain, but I’ve had it since childhood when I could be found sitting up against the wall of the school during recess, drooling on a Game Boy screen. There’s something sexy about shiny, new toys.
I was at a company IT conference during the most recent Apple keynote. I had it streaming in the background as I worked, but it held my full attention when they unveiled the iPhone 6.
It was a beautiful sight. The larger screen, the sleeker shape, the curved edges, the way it fit elegantly in the palm of a human hand. I was watching porn. Tech porn.
“Click it.” I whispered. “Click that power button.”
When I snapped out of it and turned around, I had amassed a following of IT professionals who were wiping sweat from their foreheads as they tried to get a better view of my laptop.
“It looks amazing.” I told my dad on the phone the next day. “The battery on my current phone is kind of dying and the power button gets stuck, so I might need to upgrade sooner than I originally…”
“You need to stop being Steve Jobs’ bitch.” My dad cut me off.
Like my ex-girlfriend, he too made a strong point about my addiction. I still had a perfectly good phone. It still had the same shiny, silver back and the finest glass you’ve ever run your thumb across. There was no need to rush just because a better one was about to hit shelves.
So I waited. I waited a whole week after the iPhone 6 launch to visit my local Apple store with my debit card in hand.
“I’m here for my iPhone!” I announced to the employee at the front of the store.
“Great!” She exclaimed. “I’ll just need you to get in that line over there and a technician will be with you shortly.”
My eyes gazed where she was pointing. That’s when I saw the line. It was outside the store on the other side of the walkway. The people that were already waiting did nothing but stare into the store, eye-groping every device they could.
It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I joined them.
The Apple store was located close to the center of the mall. There was a Starbucks where couples sat, drinking lattes and engaging each other in quiet conversation. Friends passed through laughing with shopping bags filled with new clothes. There was a playground where children ran free. The mall was alive on that Monday afternoon, and I was on the sidelines with my crowd of greedy, tech perverts.
“I can’t wait to see how the M8 motion coprocessor works on this one.” Announced the young man a few people behind me.
“I’m going with the iPhone 6 Plus because I like my devices nice and big.” Explained the older gentleman in front of me.
“I just can’t wait to touch the fingerprint identity sensor.” Cried the woman next to me. “I bet it feels so good!”
I stopped paying attention after awhile, because I had flashed back to a middle school sleepover with my friend, Ben. We were flipping channels and we landed on a late night, adult movie. We kept it on.
I had never seen anything like it before. The sounds, the passion, the beautiful bodies of failed actresses. I’m pretty sure Ben appreciated it the same way I did. We sat with our eyes glued to the screen, breaking the silence occasionally to bust out manly phrases like, “She’s so hot,” or “I gotta get me some of that.”
But halfway through the first sex scene, we exchanged nervous laughter. It turns out that watching televised fornication with a friend was like watching it while looking in a mirror. Your enjoyment of the moment is ruined because you can’t help but focus on how ridiculous you look.
My trip down memory lane was broken when a woman with a bag of clothes walked by and stared at us.
“Wow.” She exclaimed. “Are all of you in line for the new iPhone?”
I looked around. Everyone nodded in excitement, rubbing their current phones in their hands one last time in preparation for the excitement of running their fingers over something newer.
“Not me.” I blurted out. “I was just leaving a date that went really well and I accidentally tripped and fell into this line.”
She looked at me suspiciously. As did everyone around me.
“But while I’m here I might as well get one.”