Now look, I am not the first grumpy luddite to point out that cellular devices are ruining the kids. In fact, I’m not a luddite (my profession disallows it) and I don’t think cell phones are ruining the kids. They’re ruining everybody.
I’ve spent the past week without a cell phone for the first time in as long as I can remember. I am not going on a dopamine diet; I still use the computer and check my instagram obsessively. My handful of friendly group chats are active and the shitpoasting continues.
But there is something different about the cell phone. I can’t bring my laptop into the shower, or check it while I’m driving, or any other number of unvirtuous activities. At first, not having it to walk a few blocks was weird; I am used to throwing on a playlist or a podcast when I walk to go pick up lunch.
I began to feel what I imagine smokers feel when they quit smoking: as the former cigarette consumer’s sense of taste returns to their palate, my sense of momentary attention strengthened after a day or so concurrent with the initial pangs of addiction fading away.
There were other benefits too. I have been forced to commute several times without the benefit of Google Maps. That old-fashioned 90’s method of “remembering landmarks” has re-appeared like an old friend. I have to make my Amazon home goods purchases at my desktop like an adult instead of some kind of fiend ordering spatulas from the bathtub. I have written things down (I still know how to write, though my handwriting remains M.D.-doctoral).
Of course, the world is now maladapted for this hunter-gatherer way of life. My building’s delivery room is only openable with an email or text code. Some services don’t even have the email option, so I literally cannot reset my password until I get my new phone or, ostensibly, engage in the apocalyptically depressing mission of calling into customer service. Many apps are mobile-only or poorly optimized for the web (go try to use Instagram’s photo upload feature on web). I probably have an army of future wives waiting for me on Hinge who will simply have to wait. I’ve probably missed a few social connections because I had nowhere to jot down a number or subscribe to a handle. The world expects a millennial man to have a phone.
So, the phone will be returning, and my addiction along with it, most likely. But I have glimpsed the other side, I have seen the 90’s once again with my bare eyes, and can say that It Was Good.