It’s a Semi-Charmed Tech Kinda Life, Baby
Because cell phone fatigue and 90’s nostalgia are just better together
At least once a day, a mysterious feeling comes over me — a sudden or not so sudden desire to lose my phone by hiding it from myself, hurl it across the room as far away from me as possible, or maybe “accidentally” break it so it doesn’t work for a while.
The app “Find My iPhone” has had its usefulness for me in the past, but lately I’ve been wondering when the “Hide My iPhone” app is coming out. Not that I want to hide my smartphone forever. Just for long enough that maybe, just maybe, I can remember what life was like before I toted around this small electronic device like an appendage or a second brain.
As it is, I feel myself condemned to be subject to its chimes, its buzzes, and its beeps. Sometimes these alerts send instant anxiety up my spine, particularly if I’m working out a difficult real estate deal. At other times, a notification updating me on some social media activity will suck me in to a virtual world where I’m compelled to use my virtual self to mingle, comment, commiserate, like, and love other virtual selves’ posts. To do so is an unofficial but important part of my job, actually.
I’m a real estate agent. I’m a real estate broker, to be exact, which is actually the next step up from the introductory, real estate agent role. Not that it makes a difference, as far as my relationship with my cell phone is concerned. My smartphone is a ball and chain regardless of which title I have. If you’re going to be successful in real estate, you’re going to be using your phone, a lot.
I went into a gas station this morning for some coffee and actually, for a few seconds, fantasized about being a gas station cashier (and felt only a tiny bit guilty about it). “She doesn’t have to check her phone every five seconds like a mental slave while subjected to the teeth gritting frustrations of getting to the closing table,” I thought.
Then, to be fair, I did the math on how long it might take me, in a similar position, to make the amount of money I make selling one $400,000 home. I realized that, even if I were paid the “generous” sum of $15/hour (this is greater than minimum wage), I would have to work full time for over 16 weeks to earn the $10,000 that I, on average, will make, if that one $400,000 deal gets to the closing table.
Keeping in mind the truth that some deals do take 16 weeks (or more) to get to the closing table (assuming said deal doesn’t fall apart), this math equation reminded me to be grateful for the ability I have to earn such income while running my own business. Despite the “remaining at the mercy of my smart phone” part of the deal, a good measure of personal freedom (and not having to be on my feet all day) comes with my profession in real estate.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the strangeness and malaise of modern cell phone dominated life. I try to get space from the little attention sucker. Sometimes, I tuck my phone under a pillow on the couch and attempt to forget about it for a few minutes. Or I turn it upside down on the table so I can’t see the screen. Then, I gaze aimlessly and try to remember what life was like before cell phones.
The smell of crispy paperback books; the feel of sliding out my favorite CDs from their plastic slips in fabric covered binders; the beautiful boredom of just plain, old, non-tech-infused life. Life, before I had access to any information I could dream of knowing within minutes of wanting it. Life, before every song or band I could think of was at the tips of my fingers for the listening.
Music was oh so sacred in my youth- how I cherished my favorite discs! Am I too old and too busy “adulting” to discover and appreciate music the way I did as a teen and young adult, or has instant access spoiled the fun, making music feel closer and more distant, all at the same time?
It seems ironic that technology is supposed to make us more connected, when sometimes I feel more disconnected than ever. Some days, usually around 4 or 5 pm, I literally feel sick of looking at that bright, rectangular screen. The shining glow of the smart phone has become so ever present. I want to look at things in nature- like mountains, waterfalls, the ocean, and other humans- without that annoying screen drawing my attention away all the time.
Beep- “maybe it’s a text from a client. I should check.” Buzz- “could be an email from the title company.” Beep- “is that an offer coming in?” Oh, sorry. What were you saying? I mean, is it just me or is that just annoying, day after day?
Now, there are at least some significant seeming advantages the smart phone provides to someone like me; advantages that assist me in doing my job more efficiently. Because, don’t get me wrong, I realize that regardless of how annoying it can be, the artificial appendage we call the smartphone is a powerful tool of efficiency.
Need to find my way to an unfamiliar destination? There’s a map app for that. Need to store client information, to take notes but don’t have paper and pen, to scan a document on the fly, to look up a file that was closed months ago, or grab some comps from the neighborhood I’m in? Well, there’s just no comparison to the abilities of the smart phone in completing a multitude of “on the go” tasks, including the aforementioned and many more.
The smart phone is an incredible marvel of a machine that feels very much like a super intelligent assistant I get to (kinda, sorta) call my own, and one that greatly enhances my professional life.
However, sometimes I wonder if my phone’s smartness is making me more dumb. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t ended up utterly lost because I chose to listen to Siri’s bad directions before. If I was navigating in the time before smart phones, would I have planned out my trip better? Would I have already learned my way around this part of town already, if I was not so used to relying upon “Ms. Smarty Pants” to talk me through it?
On the same token, how many phone numbers do I know by memory now, compared to how many I knew when I was a kid or a teen? Maybe three? Four? Out of the literally, hundreds, of contacts in my phone, do I seriously only know the phone numbers of four other human beings? Why would I exercise my brain to memorize a number, or a password, for that matter, when I’ve got a tiny computer personal assistant in my pocket ready for the next command?
“Can we run away from this semi-charmed tech kinda life, together?”
“I’m sorry I don’t understand.”
“No offense, but can we go back into a time before you existed, just for a while, and live life like I remember it in the ’90’s? Like, you know, when plaid shirts were cool and if you wanted to call someone on the phone, you punched the buttons and if they were home, they picked up, and if they weren’t, they, like, didn’t have to? And if you wanted to know who called you, you punched ‘star-sixty-nine’ and we listened to our favorite CDs until scratches were driven into their shiny beautiful rainbow surfaces? Do you remember those days? Can we go back there, just for a few minutes?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“Well, I guess I don’t understand you either, Siri.”