January 11, 2023

Breaking Up

I'm breaking up with my cell phone. It has been a long, arduous divorce, but I'm hoping to transition into a more pleasant acquaintanceship much like I have with the fax machine. I'm over "till death do us part," or the warranty runs out.

It started innocently enough. I had resisted owning a cell phone for years. Loyal to my landline, even the archaic answering machine that sat brooding on the kitchen counter. My friends thought I was a Luddite.

Everything changed when my daughter was ten Suddenly I had full custody. My ex-wife was in the mental hospital, her partner was being hostile at best. It seemed imperative to have a mobile device. I bought a cheap burner phone for $64. The lowest pay as you go plan ATT offered was $24 a month for this particular electronic security blanket. The phone barely told the time.

Over the years I received a plethora of technological hand-me-downs as various family members took pity on me when they upgraded. At first, I simply enjoyed the luxury of having a decent digital camera, and found myself posting pictures online. Soon I became embroiled in the snarled web of social media - likes and dislikes, tweets and re-posts, comments and trolls, the ever elusive hashtag. I could spend hours curating images, watching reels, getting sucked into another video.

Worse, I discovered games. First solitaire, of course, but come on, who doesn't? It's built-in. Then multiplayer games: Farmville, June's Journey, Words with Friends, Seekers Notes. I was so obsessed I ended up doing three months of physical therapy to release a frozen shoulder.

Now it's at the point where I can't take a bowel movement without playing Wordle first. In the morning I reach for my phone before I reach for my husband, and then it is glued to my hip for the rest of the day. Chip can find out what aisle I'm in at Costco simply by geo-locating my phone.

And even though my phone goes with me everywhere, somehow, I'm always looking for it. Patting my pockets, peering into my purse. It has become a regular icon in my dreams. I'm lost in a strange city. The numbers are not working. How I get back to the hotel?

I've already started. First, I was gentle, deleting all the apps I don't use anyway. Next, to ones rationalized I could always access on my laptop. I had already lost interest in Pinterest and was bitter about Twitter, easy to let go. Then all the news feeds -  I'm done with the gloom scrolling. Finally, I said farewell to my beloved New York Times crossword puzzle and a kissed Sudoku softlygoodbye.

When I get home I'm moving it out of the bedroom back to the kitchen where it belongs, next to the pens and scrap paper. No longer will I jump at every chirp, click, or beep like Pavlov's dog salivating for virtual treats. No longer will I depend on it every time I have a minor wait while standing in line at the coffee shop. If I need to know the weather, I can always look out the window.

Like all breakups, it will be hard and uncomfortable at times learning to live without my electronic companion. I'm sure our friends will be divided. I wonder just how will I engage myself now.