(Editor’s Note: This piece appeared in The Hour in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Oct. 11, 2018. Reposted by permission of the author.)
Only a handful of people know my secret. I’ve done a good job of keeping it that way. But it’s time. I’m outing myself. The pretense is over: I don’t own a Smart Phone. Really? Seriously? Yes. Really. Seriously.
But life without apps is no life at all, you insist. You shudder even imagining it. No calling ahead for a Starbucks’ Macchiato, or getting alerts when a bridge is out. No answering email in the bathtub, or checking if an antique is real or a fake. No listening to Lisa Scottoline books on tape, or settling arguments by Googling facts. The ease, simplicity, knowledge; the coupons, groupons, loopons. All yours with a swipe of an index finger, you argue. Why do things the hard way?
Well, I’m not a Luddite. And I’m not some anti-technology holdout. An author, journalist, wife, mother of two (fur children), I know how to get things done. I Facebook and tweet. I Snapchat and link in. I have a color printer and an ergonomic workstation. I know a Microsoft scam when I hear one.
However, I’m also aware I love tooting my own horn (and waiting on the congrats that follow), looking at cute cat videos, and whiling away time on my office computer. But I don’t want to do this wherever I am, no matter who I’m with, for every single minute of the day and far into the night. And there’s the rub: if I owned a Smart Phone, I would.
I know my limitations. I have an addictive personality. And I don’t want to succumb. I refuse to be tethered to a piece of metal — and like Pavlov’s dog, be a slave to rings, pings and beeps that would have me groping for my device like a junkie overdue for a fix.
And I admit it. I’m not immune. I’d fall in line with the rest of the Smart Phone Zombies. I’d walk around, mesmerized by the pull of the blue light and the words crawling across the screen like so many tiny ants. Or I’d stop short on the sidewalk, eyes wide with the rush, pressing letters with my flying opposable thumbs in an effort to combat “FOMO,” the fear of missing out.
I get it, though. I understand why Smart Phone Zombies are everywhere. People feel the need to multitask. Just walking is passé. Walking and making a doctor’s appointment is a much better use of time. And if Smart Phone Zombies bump into passersby or risk causing an accident? It’s the new norm, people advise. Get used to it.
Then, too, no one talks to each other anymore. And why should they when they can whip out their own personal entertainment center? Why bother conversing with a live person who’d probably bore you to death or disagree with you? Isn’t it better to have your neurons excited and challenged by an online game, movie, or chat with your real friends, your real family — your social media tribe who consistently feel the way you do and “like” your every thought?
But, hey, I really do understand the fear of missing out. I just process it in a different way. Like a Smart Phone Zombie, I want to know what’s going on. I want to be up to date, too. The difference is I figure most things can wait. In fact, everything can wait.
Blasé? Perhaps. Still, these days, my wanting to be connected has become more introspective. With recent reports of so many icons passing, and the daily news of calamities here and abroad, my fear is not that I’ll miss out on a coupon from Chico’s, but that I’ll miss out on the here and now, the present moment, life itself.
I won’t be in this place, in this time, ever again. So I don’t want to miss out on autumn sunsets streaked in purple and rose, or spying two fawns prancing across my backyard — because I have my face in a phone. Sounds soppy, for sure. But, after all, this is my confession.
Yes, I don’t own a Smart Phone and it’s quite liberating. So don’t expect any nanosecond responses about my tag sale date, or congratulations on your new cat. I’ll answer when I get back to my computer.
For now, though, I’m going out and will be gloriously unreachable.
— Allia Zobel Nolan
Allia Zobel Nolan has written more than 150 adult and children’s books. Her latest is Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, a collaboration with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Look for her, sans Smart Phone, at the Saugatuck Storyfest on Oct. 13.