I kinda wish there was a similar law in regards to analogies to pornography. At least we would all agree that porn is a base line of evil. When considering the worst atrocities of photography, film, sexuality and relationships, we would fight the temptation to say something like, that Netflix series wasn't any more redeeming than porn.
My point is that I know that relating the smartphone to the voyeurism of porn might be a bit much, but bear with me a little longer.
The obvious irony or perhaps, hypocrisy, is that I'm bringing porn into conversation with the smartphone and social media while I am personally involved with social media. These reflections then are a kind of lament because I ironically feel trapped in these apps that are intended to be so socially liberating. When I was a kid there was usually a TV on in more than one room in the house. In high school I recognized I had developed a compulsion to turn the TV on when I entered a room, and I recognized it as an addiction.
My solution was to never have a TV again once I left for college. Now over twenty years later, I have two TVs but they are never used. I bought one to watch an OU football game when I was 27. It sits in our basement for the boys to watch VHS tapes on. My father in law bought us the other. It hangs on the wall behind two paintings.
But the internet has taken up the addictive space of TV in spades. When I wrote the first essay on the smartphone, I had been concerned about the amount of time I spent on the laptop. Now the smartphone might as well be an appendage. This phone-as-new-body-part way of living is the new norm that we might at best chuckle about with a bit of chagrin. I'm hoping these reflections can open a more significant conversation that might help me and others be more aware of our daily disciplines.
I was able to cut myself off from TV and cable. Well, I never had cable. It would have been too much. So, goodbye prime time television. I'd already lost interest in sports, so that wasn't difficult. And I was apolitical at that point, so the news didn't matter either.
In his book Technopoly, Neil Postman asks, "what is the problem to which this technology is the solution?" What dire need do we have for social media and the smartphone? How has it attained the status of a body part? Getting rid of this smartphone is exponentially more difficult than cutting myself off from TV, and I've only been using one for a couple months. I'll elaborate later on some specifics angles to what I'm struggling with, but I want to return to the analogy to pornography.
We have an incredible capacity to hold and touch, to draw close and yea...to fondle. We have a drive within us to linger, ponder, meditate, gaze upon lovingly and adore. I'd like to suggest that smartphone can simulate this intimacy. I'm suggesting that it is the device itself that we are largely grateful for and that content is largely inconsequential.
In Amusing Ourselves to Death, written in 1985, 12 years before the debut of the iPhone, Neil Postman explains:
"Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold, or used as a form of entertainment, or worn like a garment to enhance one's status. It comes indiscriminatly, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from uselessness; we are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don't know what to do with it."What we love is not so much the information itself but the power of the voyeur, the giddy freedom to glide effortlessly throughout the WORLD WIDE WEB! We love the constant opportunity to do what we want, when we want, how we want. And we love having all this power in our hands.
Of course there are many interesting things to be found through the phone and through social media. I'm hoping you'll read this blog after all, but perhaps there is a more healthy access? Maybe it shouldn't be the air I breathe all day long but something occasional instead? Phones used to have cords attached to walls. Newspapers were eventually folded and left at the breakfast table by an empty coffee cup. A movie was something you watched once in a while. I'm nostalgic for those limitations.
What even more interesting things might we do if we put down our damn phones?
I'd love to hear from you. How do you discipline yourself? Am I alone in this struggle?