This is a story about Tommy. Why Tommy? Because I’m writing the story and I get to choose our hero. I also like Bon Jovi. Feel free to replace Tommy with your name. This story might as well be just as much about you, as it is about Tommy, or Gina for that matter.
Tommy lives a normal life, with normal friends, and a normal job. He also has a normal smartphone. Doesn’t matter what make, model, or even whether it runs Android or iOS. It can make phone calls, though Tommy rarely ever uses it to talk.
When Tommy wakes up in the morning, he reaches for his phone, before even getting out of bed. He doesn’t think about it; at this point, it’s automatic. It’s a reflex. Tommy has a routine. First he checks for overnight messages and notifications. There’s a couple but nothing exciting, so he moves on to check the news, or at least the headlines. A wildfire here, a shooting there, some politics, but his attention is already elsewhere.
Then comes Instagram – “that b!tch is on vacation again”, he thinks to himself –, Facebook – “that douchebag is showing off his car again. It’s not even his, his father bought it” –, Snapchat, Messenger… Five apps and more poison later he puts the phone down in frustration, to get ready for work.
He checks his phone again after taking a shower, in case he missed something while looking at it on the "throne", and once again before heading out. The commute is 30 minutes on a good day, but time flies fast as he lends all his attention to the phone in his hands. He doesn’t notice the other commuters, but that’s OK, they don’t notice him either, as everyone’s face is gently lit by the display in front of it.
“Snap, I forgot to charge it, I’m at 20 percent!”. He said it out loud, even though he didn’t mean to, but nobody heard him. Earbuds in, noise cancelation on, the bus comes to a halt. Tommy jumps off.
Without taking his coat off, he turns on his computer and plugs in the phone for a recharge. “We should be good now”, he sighs.
One more round of social media before work, just in case something interesting happened. He gets a text from Andy: “Waddup, fam?”. “All good. U?”. “Peachy”. “👍🏻”. Tommy looks over his left shoulder. Yup, there’s Andy at his desk, six feet away.
He starts working on a report. Two paragraphs in, his phone buzzes. He received a like on that picture he worked so hard on picking out from a set of 25 almost identical ones he took. That puts a smile on his face, as he checks for comments. “Damn, nothing yet”.
Halfway through the report the phone buzzes again. “Yes! Finally! Gina accepted my friend request. We rollin’!”, he thinks to himself, this time, with a huge grin on his face.
Clock strikes five, time to punch out. “I’ll finish this tomorrow!”, and he takes off waving goodbye to Andy. “I’ll text you later, before the game.”
The commute is uneventful and time flies by fast, mostly texting and browsing. It’s almost the same faces on the bus, but nobody acknowledges anyone. They’re all too busy with their own devices, and networks, and thoughts.
You see, Tommy has an issue he doesn’t know about. Well, he does, but he’s denying it. Same way an alcoholic looks at the bottle and knows it will kill him. Same way the addict knows the needle is much more than a sting.
He can’t remember the last time he went for a walk without his phone. Because it never happened. He always makes sure to pick it up on the way out. Heck, nowadays the watch on his wrist will notify him that he left his phone behind...
We live in a world where technology turned on us. We invented phones so we could talk to people that are not physically there with us, and yet phone calls are exactly the thing we’re not doing on our phones. Now we text people who are physically here with us, or in the other room.
Social media is a place where we showcase a life we don’t actually live, instead of being a tool to stay connected with our cousin Frank in Europe, and to check in with our high school buddies and classmates. It’s a place where judgement, disinformation, fake news, and deception are oozing left and right.
…and yet, we keep getting back to it, again and again. We’re more comfortable texting someone than calling them, not to mention speaking in person. Maybe the Metaverse will help… but we already gave them all of our prized possessions, our most intimate details.
If we could all learn to put the phone down, and to pick it up less often, the world would be a much better place. Our lives would be in a much better place. Our minds would stop racing for a change, and we could just enjoy the moment.
How do I know?