No service

Right now the status bar on my iPhone 5 reads “No service”. This time it’s for real; and it’s permanent.

I was an early adopter. Now, I’m an early dropper. Or whatever the opposite of “adopter” is. But I’m weary of iPhones, iPads and all manner of things that claim to make my life better. Because they don’t.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my growing disinterest in iThings.[1] What began as a desire to avoid being distracted and constantly tethered to the phone has given way to a deeper mistrust of technologies that follow us around. It has taken me a while to come to a fuller recognition of what irritates me about these devices. Certainly their invasiveness, distractibility, and expense remain problematic. But what concerns me more is that iPhones - and by “iPhones” I mean any manner of smartphone - have a pernicious and viral quality about them. Not only do they make it easier and more addictive to check out of the real world, but their ubiquity and “social” hooks make them efficient at spreading cultural expectations about the nature of work and availability to one another. In other words, when everyone has a smartphone, then smartphones become a vector for the warped idea that work is a 24/7 proposition. It becomes nearly impossible to opt-out. No other man-made tool has been so efficient at generating and maintaining a meme like this, one that guarantees its own survival.

Not only do smartphones spread expectations about availability and always-on work, they also disseminate ideas about human imperfection and the desirability of eliminating it. No longer is there an excuse for being lost. Everyone has a GPS in their pocket. No longer is there an excuse for a missed appointment or a forgotten phone number. Never mind that whole regions of the brain are likely falling into disuse atrophy.

But our imperfections are not necessarily “bugs” in the system; perhaps they are “features” (to borrow from programming parlance.) What if the chance of forgetting is what drives us to remember? What if getting lost gives us the confidence to take chances? Whether a bug or feature, demanding perfection of ourselves or others runs counter to Buddha-nature. Accepting that which is, without a desire to make it otherwise, is where happiness is found.

  1. “Goodbye iPhone”. In February, 2014 I first wrote about my intent to ditch the iPhone. But I discovered that I had several more months of indentured servitude before I could cancel my contract without incurring an early cancelation fee.