I was standing in line at the airport gate waiting to board my connection from Detroit to Hartford following a week-long business trip in Las Vegas.
As I glanced over at the ticket counter, I happened to see a man standing at the counter, lost in thought. What was so compelling was not his appearance. He looked like a perfectly respectable businessman, probably waiting to see if he could get upgraded to first class. No, it was what he was doing while lost in his own private reverie amidst the cacophony of a frenetic airport gate. He had his cell phone in his left hand, and he was caressing his cheek with it like an infatuated lover who could not bear to lose contact with the object of his affection, even for one moment. (I mean, come on! Get a phone booth for God’s sake!)
It gave me pause, this seemingly private, yet poignant moment he was having with a piece of technology. As I watched, he had unknowingly (I am sure) worked the phone up close to the side of his mouth, like he was contemplating a kiss. It horrified me while also making perfect sense. We are all in love with our cell phones, let’s just get it out on the table.
My husband, who died about nine month ago, had insisted that I get a “real phone” when we were first courting, I had fought this notion at first, thinking that a prepaid phone without all of the bells and whistles, was perfectly adequate for my needs. I did not, at the time, want to be so tied down to technology. (What a naive rube!)
Fast forward to today and I know I would feel vulnerable not having my cell phone with me when I leave the house, even to run out for a gallon of milk. My husband’s cell phone still sits sentinel on his nightstand in our bedroom. A few months after his death, I mustered the courage to turn it on. I wanted to see if in his last minutes before his heart attack, he had somehow tried to send me a text. I looked desperately to that slim black object for any clue that might help me make sense of his sudden departure, but to no avail. I mean, it’s only a phone, it doesn’t have magical powers…right?
But what truly bothers me about our reliance on cell phones, is that we are missing out on many of the small moments that make up life. How many times have you seen a table of people at a restaurant, not engaged in intimate discourse with each other, but all staring down at their phones? Or gone to a live concert and seen people watching the show not directly, but through the small screen they hold in front of their line of sight. It’s like life isn’t real unless we capture the moment on our phones.
Narcissus the Greek god of mythology, knelt down by the water and fell in love with his own image to the point that he died, pining away for himself. Have our phones that were meant to better connect us with each other instead made us more narcissistic? Given our love affair with taking selfies and the growing presence of selfie sticks to improve upon our reach to capture our own image, there does seem to be a lot of love of self in the air. I prefer the term “self-love,” over narcissism, as it connotes less about ego and more of our wish to be happy and happy with ourselves.
Now you’ll have to excuse me as I have an appointment at the local phone store to check out the iPhone 7’s. I mean, their cameras are supposed to be just phenomenal!