The Pocket-Sized Third Wheel

Back when I’d just started this blog, I wrote a piece about taking much needed respite from my phone. I explained how I’d gotten withdrawal symptoms when I’d not let myself near it for three hours one evening, and now I’ve got another technological moan to throw at you. Hooray!
When you’re with another person, do you really need to check your phone all the time? Sometimes, yeah, we need to quickly reply to someone or check our bus journey home… but if it can wait, let it. I feel like I complain about this a lot; my friends don’t hear the end of it, believe me. If I realise that myself and the person/people I’m with are both/all on our phones, I’ll instantly drop mine like it’s scolding hot because I can’t stand the idea that we’re both/all being completely anti-social.
I think a big part of my problem with the phone-obsession is that I’m horrendously aware that my generation will be the last to know what it was like to not be constantly surrounded/inundated with bleeps and buzzes. We knew a time – if only briefly – before ‘my phone’ meant iPhone and instead meant the family landline because that was the norm.
If I have to go on my phone, I usually apologise profusely and scrabble to get whatever I’m doing done quickly. I also read aloud as I type as a way of keeping my companion involved, whether they care or not. Slowly elongating every word, like Dory ‘speaking Whale’, I’ll say, “‘Maybe… try… chucking… water… on… it… question… mark’ – Sorry about this! So sorry! I won’t be a minute! – ‘If… not… then… call… 999… I’ll… be… home… in… a… few… hours… kiss… kiss…’”
I know I’m a freak, but I stand at the bus stop and deliberately don’t touch my phone because everyone else that’s waiting is on theirs. I don’t want us all to be bunched together – the gormless youth that can’t look up from their screens, developing a neck that sits comfortably at a right-angle because we’re so glued to our devices. I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it and I also hate myself for not going back to my sturdy brick.
Last year, I was a moron. The reasons were plentiful, but the one I’ll focus on now is this: I wanted oven chips and spaghetti hoops for dinner (#gourmet) so I hopped on my bike and cycled to the Co-op. As soon as I’d set off, the torrential rain came. Preoccupied by hunger and trying not to be hit by a car in the downpour, I’d forgotten that my not-so-waterproof iPhone was sat in the front pocket of my not-so-waterproof rucksack, uncased and vulnerable. I didn’t find him – he was called Ian – until I was home half an hour later. He shivered in my hand and turned blue, then spent three days sat in a bag of basmati rice (Arab Points to me for having basmati). My efforts were fruitless, though, as he’d pretty much died instantly.
R.I.P Ian.
Enter THE BRICK, stage-left. He swaggers in, holding a cane and wearing a monocle. Winks at audience before lightly kicking the cane, swinging it up to land on his shoulder and giving one all-knowing nod.
Instead of spending a minimum of £50 to get Ian fixed, I decided now was the opportune time to get my hands on a brick and implement the less technologically-obsessed way of life that I’d always idealised in the minority Facebook-less or phone-less crowds. I spent £15 on a little black Nokia and didn’t look back. It felt a little bit like cheating, but I didn’t think Ian would mind (or ever find out).
The feeling of only being able to call and text wasn’t dissimilar to how I’d felt on The Night I Sent Myself To Technological Rehab (scroll back to January 2016 to read the post). I was sat in the doctor’s waiting room one day, with no book to read, and kept checking my Nokia for something. I reached for my pocket time after time, expecting to have something waiting for me – some sort of notification from whatever social media was screaming to get my attention. Nothing. Of course there was nothing – my Nokia could call, text and play Snake and that was about it. There wasn’t even an update because The Brick didn’t need updates. It was invincible and I was restless. Of course I wasn’t being inundated with calls and texts – even if someone wanted to message me, I barely had a bar of signal anyway – but nonetheless I incessantly checked because it was a reflex from my days with Ian.
The Brick was my main method of communication for two months. However, eventually – and mainly because my family couldn’t handle the fact that I was no longer on our Whatsapp group – I caved and plonked my SIM into my mum’s old iPhone that had been collecting dust since her upgrade. Goodbye, Brick. Sorry, Ian. I despised myself for not sticking to the Nokia, mainly because it refused to steal my attention and it forced me to be more present. Ok, yes, I can hear you shouting – I could have just instilled some self-control and not let myself get dragged in by a smart phone. I’m sure there are plenty of people who aren’t controlled by them, but I know that I’m not one of them and I hold my hands up to that.
Ah, look at how beautifully we’ve got ourselves back to the original point of this whinge!
Technology has a knack for completely sapping our attention, but there are definitely times when you can realise it’s happening – surely? If you’re out for dinner and your phone buzzes because someone liked the photo you put on Instagram of your cat sat next to your dinner so it looks like it’s eating scrambled eggs on toast and isn’t it just so hilarious and adorable, does that really warrant you to interrupt whatever you or the person you’re with was saying? Is it really that important? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s not just annoying but goddamn rude. Yes, we’re all being turned into techno-dependant zombies like Charlie Brooker seems to be rightfully predicting, but have we completely lost the respect and self-control to focus on the real life human being sat in front of us? They now restlessly and passive-aggressively tap their foot under the table because we’ve got to quickly check who liked our status. Sorry, what were you saying?

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