Stop Looking At Your Fucking Phone


This blog is very often me yelling at me about me, and for some reason folks actually want to tune in and listen to that. This post is no different. This post is about me as much as — if not more than — it is about you. So, please, take this in the spirit that it is intended:

Me yelling at me about me.

*clears throat*

I love my phone.

I mean, I don’t make love to it or anything, though maybe I ought to given how much time I spend with it. It’s always right there in my pocket. Near my Wendig Bits, which is a reference to my genitals, as it were, and not a darling name for a brand new breakfast cereal.

The smartphone — in this case, my iPhone — is a pretty fucking batshit gonzo amazing device. Ten years ago you could not have convinced me that we would’ve had a handheld computer tricorder motherfucker that was more powerful than the computer I had on my desk. A computer that in fact also operates as a phone, a camera, a GPS, a game console, a social antenna. You can use it to find recipes, movie times, porn, bars, porn, books, friends, fuckbuddies, bars, porn, weather, and porn. That is a fantabulous device. It’s smaller than my hand, bigger than my mouth, and it contains NEARLY ALL THE INFORMATION.

It’s wonderful.

And you need to put it down.

What I mean is, I need to put it down.

Because there is no better way to be up your own ass than to be constantly staring into the shiny glitter pit that is your handheld mobile smart-device.

The phone-makers know that. They count on it. Just as food manufacturers know that food becomes more addictive with the right ratio and release of SALT SUGAR FAT into your bloodstream, the phone-makers have their own ratio of shiny icons and satisfying dings and injections of hot social connection and constant updates and probably porn. They’re not dum-dums. They want these devices to become the center of your existence. And that’s not unreasonable. Again: my smartphone is fucking amazing. I can’t imagine what will even be around in ten years provided of course that we do not drown in our own boiling oceans by then. Our phones in ten years will probably be enslaved artificial intelligences that can fly and make frittatas and give us orgasms and I dunno probably turn into lightsabers. I’m not knocking the considerable awe your phone should inspire. They are amazeballs. They are wondernipples.

And seriously, we need to put them down.

Not all the time.

But some of the time.

Look around you most days and you will see two things:

1) The world in all its glory. You will see birds flying and squirrels fucking. You’ll see traffic and airline contrails and pretty clouds and ugly clouds. You’ll see some guy with a triangle-shaped pizza stain on his shirt as if he literally just rested the slice of pizza on his chest. You’ll see a woman with a tiny dog. You’ll see some kid picking his nose and making his sister eat it. You’ll see bees and ants and boats and baubles and trash and treasure and maybe if you look hard enough you’ll see Donald Trump’s rabid skull-merkin chasing down neighborhood cats and eating them.

2) You will also see people ignoring the world in all its glory and instead doing damage to their cervical vertebrae as they crane their heads forever downward, shoving their noses and eyeballs into their handheld mobile time-sucking dopamine-releasing endorphin-chugging devices.

Do you remember the time before phones? Sitting there in an airport or waiting for your car to get repaired — what did you do? Flip through a magazine, maybe. Or maybe you talked to someone near you. Or even better: you just fucking looked around at shit until you realized that was boring and then you crawled inside your own head for a while and just thought about stuff? Daydreaming? Zoning out with a thousand-yard-stare? Figuring out life, the universe, and everything?

Now, we go right to the phones.

Which is okay, mostly. I’m at the airport, I like that. I like having that time with social media, with friends online, with games in my pocket. I like having a book there on my iPad. But once in a while, too, I forget to charge my device and I’m left with a brick and for a few moments, I have this mad panic. “AH WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT MY CONNECTION BASICALLY I’M AS DEAD AS THE PHONE IS HOW WILL PEOPLE KNOW WHERE I AM OR WHAT I AM DOING OR HOW WILL I KNOW WHERE THEY ARE OR WHAT THEY ARE DOING OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT hey look at that lady her hair actually looks like a well-coiffed facsimile of that big orange monster guy from Looney Tunes.” (I did not realize that character had a name: “Gossamer.”)

*flashes the MORE YOU KNOW banner across your screen*

Next thing you know, you’re off on a little mental adventure. You’re looking at things. Connecting with your own brain instead of everyone else’s. Existing in the moment rather than in a thousand other moments from a hundred other people.

But it’s hard. Isn’t it? I find it hard, anyway. Disconnecting is tough.

Just putting the phone down — it’s such a habit. Twitter. Email. Weather. Music. Everything.

It doesn’t help that the phone wants to constantly poke the button in our brain that lights up our internal switchboards — it compels us to stay, hang out a while, keep looking. You open your phone to check the weather or take a photo and suddenly there’s a Twitter notification and an e-mail ding and a note about a new unlockable in that freemium game you just downloaded. It’s digital quicksand. It’s an informational sugar rush. It is glorious. It’s like drinking from a way-too-delicious caramel firehose. And it’s too damn much.

Our smartphones are like bridges carrying us over boring moments — but sometimes those boring moments are secretly, subversively amazing all on their own. Especially for us writers and artists. Sometimes it’s our job not to dive into the device but instead to stay rooted in the world — to watch it, and then to fuck off not into a screen sometimes, but into our own head-caves to process what we see and hear and smell. Sometimes we should stop taking the bridges our devices afford us, and instead take the long way. Slink down into the gulch. Descend into the canyon of existence. Be in the corporeal world and not the digital one.

Because sometimes those bridges also carry us over other people. And vital moments with those people. I’ve been talking to people who were looking at their phone and at best it’s like talking to a distracted raccoon. At worst it’s like trying to have a conversation with a tree. “HELLO ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME, TREE.” Hell, my son the other day was like, “Daddy, put your phone down, I’m talking to you.” He was. And I didn’t even realize it. I was like, “WHO ARE YOU, SMALL PERSON, HOW DID YOU GET IN MY oh shit yeah, hey, Gerald,” and he’s like, “My name isn’t Gerald.” “Dave?” “Nope.” “Don?” “No!” “I’ll just call you NINJA ROBOT 9000,” and he was cool with that, and now I should probably try to remember his name. But until then, me and NINJA ROBOT 9000 are going to have some great adventures where I’ll be putting down my phone and paying attention to what’s-his-name as best as I jolly well can.

Which is actually my solution, I think: to be mindful of the phone and to put it down at crucial moments. No phone at meal times. No phone on walks. No phone at bedtime. No phone when I’m hanging with the tot. The phone is like booze, ice cream, TV, video games, masturbation — everything in moderation. I can’t be staring at it all the time. Some of the time: yes. It’s a great vacation and a powerful tool. I love my phone and that won’t stop. I use the king hell out of my phone and that won’t — can’t, really — stop either. But I will put it down. I have to put it down. Because what’s inside it isn’t actually the world, no matter how much it feels like it sometimes. It’s time to pay attention to what goes on beyond the borders of my device screen.

I will try to be present when the world asks that I be present.

That, I think, is my mission statement.

You don’t have to accept it as yours, of course, but if you start dicking around with your phone when I’m talking to you, I might pick up your phone and eat it. *chomp*

* * *

ZER0ES.

An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.

But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.

Coming 8/18 from Harper Voyager.

Read the first five chapters here, then pre-order from:

Doylestown Bookshop| WORD| Joseph-Beth Booksellers| Murder by the Book

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77 responses to “Stop Looking At Your Fucking Phone”

  1. This. Lotsa this. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks dithering about a necessary phone upgrade (the SII has developed a nervous condition. Sometimes I get the same text message 5 times, sometimes not at all.) I wanted a super uber hyper phone; I needed a modest, only slightly amazing phone. Finally, tonight, I decided on the phone I needed, because, really…I just don’t have time to play with all of those pretties. Now the universe, through the pen of Wendig validates my decision. Shiny.

  2. I might be the only person on the planet…okay in North America…wait no…I might be the only fully westernized non-indigenous person in North America who doesn’t own a smart phone. Oh but then there’s those big hat-wearing folk that travel by horse and buggy…Amish I think they’re called (see what happens when you don’t have quick and easy access to information)….and let’s face it there’s probably a whole slew of other people who manage somehow to function in this world without one of those fancy time-sucking diddly dongs. Yes, I called your phone a DONG. They really are the most anti-social thing ever invented. Did you know that the number of people with severe pelvic injuries has skyrocketed ever since their invention? Yes, from people walking out into traffic and getting SLAMMED by a fast moving motorized conglomeration of steel and plastic. It’s amazing though how it’s becoming increasingly difficult to function in North America without a smart phone, especially where travel and commerce are concerned. Everyone assumes you have one and that you will therefore respond to their important requests IMMEDIATELY. For example, I may have just missed out on making a $3.8 million dollar sale and thereby a rather enormous commission because I don’t own one of those prickish things. Yes, I just shed a tear. I may have to reconsider my reticence.

    • I don’t own a smartphone either. I usually carry a book to read and a notebook for note-taking, so why should I clutter up things with an expensive device? The only time I regret not having one is when we’re in a strange place and need directions how to get somewhere. But there’s the good ol’ Rand McNally, and I don’t have to pay a monthly fee for it. Yes, I’m thrifty. A lot of Scottish blood flows in these veins. #nophone #survivingjustfine

    • I don’t have a smartphone either. Never have. Could be the fact that I’m close to being Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch). My SO has one, but he’s fortunately not connected to the thing night and day. Yeah, they’re cool and all, but I want my phone to be a PHONE. I’ve got an old flip-phone that has internet capabilities, but I never use it unless I’m desperate. Nor do I text. (These things cost money, people!) Yeah, everyone with their smartphones can play “Next Generation” all they want, but I’m old school. *flips open phone* Beam me up!

    • I don’t have one either, Dawn, and will not get one until I no longer have a choice in the matter, simply because I don’t need one. I hardly ever turn on my “dumb” phone. Hate talking on the phone, period.

  3. ‘I’m left with a brick and for a few moments, I have this mad panic. “AH WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT MY CONNECTION BASICALLY I’M AS DEAD AS THE PHONE IS HOW WILL PEOPLE KNOW WHERE I AM OR WHAT I AM DOING OR HOW WILL I KNOW WHERE THEY ARE OR WHAT THEY ARE DOING OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT’

    It’s called Nomophobia – yep there’s a name for it. I love reading your posts, don’t comment very often, but never has a truer thing been said. It’s a magical tool but it’s also a monster of distraction. But, love them or hate them I don’t think we could live without them now. I might have to go and threaten to eat my grandson’s phone so he’ll talk to me – just have to figure out how to do it without breaking my teeth.

  4. I’ve created a 21 day challenge just for this. It should be up on my blog next week, after I get some audio recorded, and worksheets created. I know, for me personally, being plugged in all the time lowers my creativity, increases my hostility and keeps me distracted from the real stuff I cherish. It clogs my brain full of nonsense and wastes the precious time I could be spending doing anything else. If anyone’s interested in joining my 21 Day Media Detox Challenge, the info will be posted soon. I’ve done it once through already, and I ended up feeling re-energized and more engaged with actual, real people.

  5. My phone doesn’t even let me accept calls anymore. How sad is that?

    The constant nose in the phone thing infuriates me when I’m out with someone. It’s basically saying, “You’re not nearly as interesting as what’s on this eye-squintingly tiny screen.” Well, if that’s the case, why are we even out here together? Just go home and sit in front of a computer screen if that makes you happy.

  6. Years ago — ok, it was The Year 2000. I had been in London for maybe six months as a resident film student and, because housing had a rather vagabond quality and my days and nights were to be taken up with on-the-go exciting Filmmaking Adventures, I’d decided mobile was a wiser choice than landline. In my hometown, no one except for maybe — no, I take that back — no one had cell phones. Those huge things with their extendable antennae caused cancer! And cost a mint.

    My London mobile was slightly less long than my hand and had only enough screen to show what numbers were coming in or going out. I suppose it texted, but I did not. I didn’t use it as a calculator, either, (assuming that I could have). When I spoke with my parents on Christmas, it heated to the point that I frequently had to switch hands, and it gave me a massive temporal lobe ache.

    It was an amazing thing. Durable even past the point of exploding open after hitting the ground. Several times.

    I couldn’t dial my parents, of course — they had to dial me and pay the international extortion rates. But I had the confidence that should they need to reach me, should they wonder how I was doing, they could get me in an instant.

    And then I took a solo trip to the Orkney Islands. It was the tail end of winter — which, that far north, is quite a tail. It was a good month before tourist season.

    On the main island, cell reception was spotty, but it was there. That was nice, since the calls from my parents amounted to the most my voice got used. No one else was staying in the hostel. Most times, I was the only person walking around town. With my phone, though, I knew I wasn’t truly isolated.

    And then I took a ferry to one of the outer islands. The voyage was an hour or so, maybe more. When you’re riding dark grey waters beneath misty grey sky, time becomes…less a part of your life. And when you do this by yourself, you become…more your self.

    The island was nothing. A shack for the ferry terminal, a turnip farm (belonging to the guy who works the terminal), and several miles of barren land beyond that were closed up houses and a historic site I was unable to locate. The ferry guy drove me there. I thought I’d get a taxi back.

    Taxi service existed only in tourist season. I was stranded in a winterized ghost town. If I missed the ferry back, I’d be stranded overnight.

    On a tiny island at the tip of a bunch of tiny islands off the northernmost tip of Scotland.

    No cell service. I couldn’t call people — not the hostel where my things were, not my friends, my family. And people couldn’t call me. And this was not on my itinerary. I’d told no one of this specific day-trip. It was foolish, yes, perhaps. But there it was. No one that I knew, knew exactly where I was with the whole planet potentially an option. I could’ve been anywhere.

    And I was there, anywhere, by myself. Grey skies, grey sea stretching beyond the horizon.

    Me and the land and the sea and the amazing wonder of it all. It was life, reduced to simplicity and revealed to be infinitely complex.

    It was glorious.

    • Yes, spot on. It sometimes takes a journey like this to realise truths that otherwise cunningly conceal themselves.

      Of course, growing up in Orkney I’m kinda biased here (and I currently live on the far northern tip of mainland Scotland – where mobile signal can still be patchy even now).

      I love to spend long periods of time out in the wilderness – but I still take my (battered and now relatively ancient) mobile with me. To use it I sometimes have to climb a hill to find signal, but that’s all part of the fun (not that I do use it often, other than to check in with people, let them know I’m alive or send photos of blog pieces I’ve handwritten in my journal).

      Hmmm, I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll leave this here – but liked your comment and just wanted to say so.

      • Thank you for saying so. The internet often feels like talking into the ether, even (or most particularly) in such a busy comments section as this blog has. Messages in a bottle would be abother way to look at it, I suppose. It’s nice to know this bottle got picked up.

        Orkney. What an amazing place to have grown up. I’ll sound like a New Age goofball, maybe, if I say how unique an energy that place has…but it does. Maybe it’s the barren landscape, all that ancient history so “right there”—and not just by American standards of ancient, but really and truly ancient! 🙂 Maybe it’s the complexities of the ocean currents or the winds. I never understood why I chose to visit there on a break from school, but it changed my life immeasurably and is up there among my “very best decisions, ever.”

        I’ve travelled alone, and with various friends and family, and with medium-sized groups. And while all had pleasures and merits (perhaps not so many in the group things, being more prone to interpersonal drama), those truths—as you said—are easier to tap into in the alone-times.

        And, also as you said, a phone used wisely is a definite benefit. It allows for that alone-time without feeling truly isolated (or at greater risk to life’s hazards). And it allows for sharing *of* the travels. Often, especially on Orkney, I’d find myself taking photos not so that I would remember the particular scene but so I could share the moment, later. It added, somehow, to my appreciation of it, that inner call to share with others.

        I am also rambling. I appreciate *your* comment, and these new thoughts it sparked. Thank you, again.

  7. I don’t get the need for cell phones.

    I don’t have one (tried it once about 10 years ago, lasted 3 months, thought it was a waste of money and never bought another one) and my 14 and 16 year old boys don’t have them either….we seem to be surviving just dandy.

    My kids don’t even ask for them. They see kids at school with them and just don’t see the fascination.

    They’ve also been in the car with me when we’ve gotten run off the expressway (more then once) at 70+mph because assholes texting and driving.

    We’ve witnessed car accidents for the same reason and over the last 2 years there have been 3 kids that my sons have gone to school with that have died in accidents where cell phones were involved.

    Statistically, accidents caused by cell phones result in more deaths and serious injury then drunk driving.

    As my 16 year old says, people sitting around with their heads up their phones are basically sitting around with their heads up their asses.

    Everything is going on around them and they are missing it, causing accidents, treating the people standing right next to them like they don’t exist, being rude etc and act like they can’t live without it.

    Don’t even get him started on selfies, people who take pictures of their food or people who claim text spelling is actually spelling real words. lol

    My 14 year old says, it’s a phone, why are people so jacked about a phone. He also questions how people can (as he says) run their mouths so much. lol

    He comes home from school and tells us it’s no wonder kids are illiterate, the teachers spend half the time in class sitting at their desks on their phones.

    I also don’t have, FB, twitter or any of those other social media accounts.

    *shrugs*

    • I didn’t have one for years, not until I started my own business. Cell phones are great for being able to carry client files, build design boards, and hold conference calls on the go. Basically, if you work for yourself and meet with clients – it’s a must have.

    • Cell phones have revolutionised many industries and made many people’s lives better. I appreciate that not everybody needs them all the time, and it’s great that you and your kids don’t want or need them. But to completly dismiss something that is revolutionising how we communicate, educate, manage logistics, coordinate activism, and more is a little presumptuous. Maybe you don’t “get the need”, but for many people they bring opportunity and a way to improve their lives.

      They should automatically turn off when in a moving vehicle though. Using a phone and driving is addictive behaviour at it’s worst.

  8. I haven’t got a smartphone and seem to function pretty well without it. This post has definitely persuaded me never to have one. But do you know how I spend my time instead of staring at a smartphone? I’m not zoning out or thinking creative thoughts – I spend most my time watching people using their smartphones instead of talking to one another and the rest of it ranting about them. That’s not actually true, I spend my time enjoying the world and my own thoughts.My advice, buy a phone which does only one t hing: telephone. Keep your computer for your office.

  9. Agree 100%. My reading habits took a serious nosedive when I got an iPhone and a fibre connection. I had to step away from the crack. I had to put rules in place: No more iPhone in bed. No more iPhone on Sunday. I still I feel its virtual sucking vortex. #firstworldproblems

    As a writer and a bookdealer it drives me batty when my friends say that they don’t ‘have time’ to read. So I wrote this post: http://www.buzzfeed.com/janitathielel/feed-your-brain-1l7xl

    Hope it’s okay that I’ve shared it here and doesn’t seem too ass-uppery. It is shared with best intentions and I promise I’m not trying to sell you anything.

  10. Am I the only one picturing a commercial for Frosted Golden Wendig Bits? Delicious corn cereal rich in vitamin K, shaped like…well, you know like…did I mention they were rich in Vitamin K…?!?

  11. No. I will not stop looking at my phone. However, I may, if you are very nice and not boring, leave my phone in my purse while we are socializing.

  12. Chuck, is this the reason why you have you writting shack/shed in the woods, so that you can perv on squirrels being intimate?

  13. It’s why I don’t have notifications on any of my games or apps. The only one that does have notifications is my calendar. Appointments are a necessary part of our life in this house, but it keeps me slightly less phone occupied.

  14. Man… I get this – truly I do.

    When I go out driving, I have my phone in my handbag in the seat next to me. From the time I snap in my seatbelt, I totally ignore the phone – I’m in the mode of driving the car. It will take a lot for me to pay attention a ringing phone while I’m driving.

    Yes! I can ignore a loud Queen song screaming from the seat next to me. Unless it rings three times fully, then I’ll pull over, stop the car safely then find out who was trying to call me that many times – to be desperate enough to get a hold of me.

    Otherwise, in waiting rooms, I bring a book with me – a real, pagefilled book! – to read. Or I’ll have a notebook to write in. My phone is put onto ‘Do Not Disturb’ and I put it away.

    At the beginning of the year, I had to get a puncture fixed on my car. While I waited at the tyre place, I sat there in the room with 5 other people and no television, no coffee machine and no magazines to read. So, I pulled out a book I was reading and everyone in the room looked up at me as though I had brought out the Angel Tablet from ‘Supernatural’ and I was about to study it… yes, they were all on their phones being suckered in by the glowing, hypnotysing screen. As I stared back, I pulled out my reading glasses, opened the book, took out the bookmark and slowly looked down and began to read.

    I felt as though a pack of hyenas were watching me….

    Otherwise, the only time I ever go near my phone is to answer a text, answer it if it rings, stop the morning alarm at 6am (we get a lot of power outages here, so no plug-in alarm clocks, thanks to Mother Nature) and to take photos of nights out on the town. Otherwise, I can go without my phone for hours on end and pretty much ignore it for most of the week… until I go shopping – it’s where I keep my shopping list. 😀

  15. My phone is shite and my iPad mini is first gen which means it picks up nothing unless I’m actually ON TOP of the antenna… added to which I do the child care so most of the time I am barred from the internet by my own personal Gerald, thingy…. whotssisname. I’m feeling kind of smug about that right now!

    Cheers

    MTM

  16. I WAS listening to you, Chuck, but then I had to look at the big orange monster from Bugs Bunny and then dash to YouTube to see if I could find my childhood memories there, and sorry, were you saying something about squirrels?

  17. I love my smartphone in many ways, but I have it set to give me no push notifications. It does not buzz. Only if a text message from the few people I allow in or a call comes through (and my phone is face up where I can see the screen light up), does contact occur immediately.

    Other than that, it’s on my terms. I can get a pile of email and not know…until I open email and check. Same thing with social media and other things — it’s only when I choose to turn my phone on and look that I see the world through its filters.

    There are certain friends I won’t go out to eat with because they can’t go more than a couple minutes without checking their phones. Others have their phones right there beside their plates, and they react without thought at every ding and buzz. Hell, my mom…my wife and I stop talking and stare at her like a teenager when we’re over there eating and she — in the middle of dinner — will jump on her phone to play a word in Words with Friends.

    I think the saddest thing is I’ve seen friends who used to read regularly cut their reading down dramatically because they allow the constant distraction of their phones. But it’s not all bad…I know of at least one friend who never really read at all who now reads more than most people I know, simply because he can always have a library of books right there in his pocket.

  18. I love this. I’m reading it on my actual computer instead of my smart phone. I can totally relate. My husband challenged me to give up my smart phone for lent. And I actually did, for the most part, and wrote about it on my blog. It was cathartic, and I’m never going back to my old habits. So keep trying, and I swear, after 40 days, you won’t even miss what you used to do with it.

  19. Like anything else in this world, it’s about manners. Sadly, most people with phones don’t have any. My two biggest pet peeves is going out to eat with someone who messes with their phone the whole time and going to a movie only to see the flash of a smart phone screen at the exciting part.

    You’re totally right, smart phones are great things that can be helpful in a lot of situations. I own one, I use it, but not when I’m with other people or at events. Then my world consists of the people around me, not my damn phone!

  20. Sometimes, like when I’m at a movie or church (yeah, I go there, so sue me) or dinner with friends – I leave it in the car! And I never take it in the bedroom anymore. Because I was getting sick of myself waking up and just HAVING to read all my emails and the news headlines before I even got out of the bed. Now, I do yoga instead.

    Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

    I’m afraid the Thought Police will come for me and I’ll be one of the first ones they use for that direct brain implant. ‘Cause you know that’s coming next: “Better than a SmartWatch! Never lose your phone again! NEVER BE ALONE IN YOUR OWN HEAD EVER AGAIN!!!”

  21. I’m going to disagree with some commenters here and say there are two very good things about the uptick in cell phone usage.

    First, as someone with ADD, the phone is a godsend. I do very poorly with waits in line or long periods of inactivity (and “long” can be anywhere from an hour to about fifteen seconds, depending on what mood my brain’s in.) Now if I start to get restless, I can distract my brain with something that may be inconsequential or “useless” (checking my Twitter feed, reading blog posts on some ‘horrible brains’ site…) without slowly driving myself insane or being a bother to people around me.

    Second, smartphones (and the internet in general) are a godsend for introverts, the shy, and the socially anxious. We can engage with people on our own terms and take a break at any point by just switching apps or putting the phone down. And when we’re on our phones, people tend to not engage us unwanted. I think a lot of the pooh-poohing of modern smartphone usage comes from people who are used to having more face to face social interaction without realizing that they level they’re desiring is not necessarily the same that a lot of people are desiring.

    I actually agree with Chuck – setting limits for oneself that balance your phone/non-phone life for what works for you is important, and so is etiquette among people you presumably like and don’t want to cheese off. Just don’t agree with the “phones are bad!” mantra from some of the comments that takes it to the opposite extreme.

    • I’m with you. Limits are good, and for sure being polite and safe are good, but as a serious introvert and a person with some physical limitations, my smartphone allows me to interact with others in positive ways I never otherwise would, and read when books hurt my hands and sitting at a computer hurts everything else. My physical and mental health benefit. 🙂

    • As someone with ADD, I’m right there with you. And I’m an extrovert, but one with social anxiety–I *need* interaction with people I’m comfortable with, can be outgoing with complete strangers when I’m feeling comfortable with myself, but can also be painfully shy and terrified of interacting with strangers around me. Before I had a smartphone, I was *less* social than I am now. When I was in an airport or train station or riding the bus or subway, I would usually have a Walkman/Discman/MP3 player pumping music into my ears and my eyes glued to a book to block out the world around me. Now, I use my phone to interact with people through texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. Now, I do enjoy listening to the ambient sound of people conversing around me in public spaces, I like people-watching, but smartphones aren’t something that have made me less social or blocked out the world around me, they’re something I’ve been waiting for all my life so that I can stay in touch with people I know when I’m out in the world, my brain restless and anxious, surrounded by scary strangers and feeling alone.

  22. I’ve only recently joined the smart phone crowd, and as we have limited data I avoid using it for games or entertainment. But in general around our house we have a problem with people being on-line constantly (or at least on-computer), and often unresponsive. I hate it.

    On the bright side, I get lots of time to retreat into my head, because I can’t do anything in a moving car except drive (if I’m driving) or stare out the window and let my mind roam (if someone else is driving). Though occasionally conversations break out. Still: you can’t talk all the way across 4 Western states. You just can’t. So I think a lot on road trips.

    I sometimes think about my addiction to audio books. I listen constantly while doing chores, etc., and periodically wonder if I’m destroying my inner resources 🙂

  23. “Wendig Bits” cereal would be awesome! There should be one with blue marshmallows and cereal bits shaped like a schoolgirl in a kilt and a fat guy in a butcher’s apron. And for the goth kids: a black cereal (you could even grab the health food market and make it out of black quinoa and wild rice) shaped like birds. (That one would only be available in specialty stores, so you’d need to design a smart phone app so people could look up where to buy it.)

  24. I get the need to put the phone down at appropriate times, to experience the world.

    What I don’t buy is people presuming to tell me when, for me, those times are. You don’t know my needs, you don’t know my history, you don’t know my life. You don’t know my *context*.

  25. So has anyone else seen the recent advert for the Samsung phone with the curved glass? With “discreet” notifications that appear on the curved edge so you can look at your phone without looking at your phone?

    Yeah. The makers of these phones are aware that a lot of us are annoyed at the eyes-glued-to-their-devices crowd. And are creating a workaround.

    Yes, guys and gals, we know all the great reasons for maybe why it isn’t always bad to have the phone in hand. We know how amazing it is we’ve got a tricorder in one pocket. But I know very well these friends of mine are not business owners, are not parents, are not about to make a huge sale. They’re checking Facebook. They’re checking Twitter. Things that absolutely can wait until our conv is complete. They’re being rude. No less rude than if they suddenly decided to turn on the tv while in the middle of a conversation. It can wait five minutes.

  26. Just recently started trying to unravel the mysteries of Twitter (yes, I DID ride to school on a bronto) and MAN! What a time suck. If I had a smart phone, I’d never get anything done.

  27. I totally just did a 30-day no Facebook challenge for myself… only checked once a day in the morning… and as a side effect it meant less time with my smart phone. After a few twitchy days of forcing my hand to stop reaching for my phone, I found that I didn’t wanna do it anymore. I sometimes…gasp…leave it behind when I go out! It’s nice to be able to breathe and not be tethered to technology. I love that mantra, “I will try to be present when the world asks that I be present.” Be here, now. It’s good.

  28. Funny you should mention this. Around the first of June, I decided to keep my phone in my pocket for the duration of my daily commute and spend that time reading honest-to-gosh physical books. The first novel I chose for this new habit? “Blackbirds”, of course. Not only am I enjoying using this time for reading, but I’ve found I’m significantly less stressed out when I arrive at the office in the morning and home in the evening.

    Not completely on-subject, but did y’all see Scalzi’s “How I Work” feature on Lifehacker? (http://lifehacker.com/im-john-scalzi-and-this-is-how-i-work-1720935145?). He keeps a ukulele by his desk for time when he needs to think and doesn’t want to get distracted by browsing/surfing/etc. I’ve seen worse strategy for dealing with the temptation of distraction.

  29. Yes! Everyone needs to put down their fucking phones. I’m sick of talking to trees–actually, a conversation with a tree would be more engaging and more eye-opening than talking to an iPhone junkie. Life is passing everyone by while their heads remain buried in the sand that is their smart–uhhm–Dumbphones. I’ll stick with my flip phone, with no texting, and remain in the world around me, and I’ll keep daydreaming, stargazing, and know my own thoughts rather than subject myself to the time-sucking-, life-sucking void that is the iPhone obsession and addiction. Thank you for posting this blog, Chuck! It made my day.

  30. Chuck, I have a nice purple cardigan and a sign for you that says KEEP OFF MY LAWN. We can sit on the porch in our rocking chairs and yell at the young people as they walk by, and when no one’s looking, sneak a glance at our phones.

  31. This is really profound. I had a rule when I first got my dog that I would not take my phone on our walks. I’ve seen people do that, but Dixon was the first dog in my life who was actually MINE, and I wanted that walk to be about us hanging out. Also, I wasn’t used to walking a 60 pound pit-bull, and reasoned I’d need both my hands and most of my brain. And I did. Now, I don’t need to brain quite as much, but those walks are where almost ALL my plotting is done. The phone stays home. It’s awesome.

  32. I’ve grown to HATE the so-called “smart” phones. Stupid phones is more like it. Seems I can’t go any where anymore without seeing these numb-thumb bozos walking around, heads down, staring at the phone in their hands. And I’m really sick and tired of them walking into me. Thank God it hasen’t happened while I’m driving… yet (fingers crossed).

    I’ll keep my old, “obsolete” flip phone, thank you. It does everything I want it to do. Like make/receive phone calls. Radical concept, eh? And it’s also a calendar, calculator, and alarm clock. I don’t text because it’s got a phone-button layout and it’s too tedious to text.

    And, I’ve never pocket phoned someone with my flip. Gotta actually flip it open to make calls. But I’ve gotten a lot of pocket calls from people with smart phones stuck in hip pockets.

  33. I don’t have one of these magical devices. I have a little flip, cell phone that I often refer to as my Star Trek comminicator because that’s how frigging old it is. It’s capable of text and pix but I don’t have that enabled. One, I can’t afford one of the higher magical phones. Two, I see what those higher magical phones do to people – like when my son visits and spend 3/4 of the time looking at it rather than at me. I think his head’s gonna get stuck in that down position. I sometimes remind him my eyes are up here. As a result of interacting with and watching others with their higher magical phones I don’t want one. It’s difficult enough to keep from wandering off into the Interwebz when I’m on the laptop; I can just imagine having this smaller, handier device. Nope. Not gonna do it.

    My eyes are up here.

  34. I often fantasize about slapping the phone from the hands of the idiot that stops to stare at it at the bottom of a crowded escalator…”Hey! You dropped your phone, dipshit…”

  35. My smartphone is useful and convenient for work. I like texting with my son when he’s at a hamburger joint and he wants to send me emoji of monkeys and waves. I like looking at pictures of surfers and goofy selfies on Instagram. I like having everybody’s mailing addresses in one neat place instead of on a million scraps of paper and cocktail napkins in a tattered old address book.

    My smartphone lives in my briefcase. It likes it there in its cool dark pocket. I like it there in its cool dark pocket. I like to forget about it there in its cool dark pocket when I’m standing in line at the post office and watching people looking at their phones or picking their noses or staring blankly at the greeting card display or chatting with each other, or when I’m eating a hamburger with a monkey at the beach who’s telling me stories about my son.

    “I will try to be present when the world asks that I be present.” Nice.

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