My worst-best friend was sitting there, facedown on my bed the other morning, taunting me as I got dressed.
I had just ghosted this object of my addiction. Decided I would have zero contact with the diabolical soul sucker. Enough was enough. Today was the day.
I was putting my iPhone on ice. Codependence over, cold turkey.
Well, for 24 hours, at least.
I had ordered the students in my class at St. Joseph’s University to do the same thing. Would they find their digital addiction as toxic as I, Generation Xer who grew up in an analog world? As the SJU crew were fine-tuning their draft reports on the matter Wednesday, I went into Lab Rat mode.
First thing in the morning I had switched the phone to silent-and-vibrate mode. But as the iPhone sat lifeless on my bed, the Darth Vader-like black slab seemed to beckon me with a whisper: Come on, baby, You know you want just one more sweet swipe.
Would I make it through the day alive? Would my children? My husband? My sources?
It’s time to take the kids to school. I check my back pocket for the iPhone.
Oh, wait -- no phone today. I let out a malevolent laugh. Victory shall be mine!
The kids are chasing each other and giggling. It’s music to my ears, the type usually drowned out by my scrolling through the phone in between Cheerios or getting little teeth brushed. I am usually lost in a deafening blur of digital noise.
Before later leaving for the newsroom, I huddle with the spouse. I’ll be on email, I say. Or call my editor.
HE: “You wanna just say I’m picking up the kids?”
HE: “Tonight! You can’t call me later. No phone. Remember?”
Realization No. 2: An iPhone-less life requires old-fashioned strategery: Make a plan, stick with it. I leave with a small paper notepad for tasks I’d otherwise log by phone.
A colleague is furiously texting at her desk. Schools are being let out early. Who will pick up her kid?
“I have a phone attached to me at all times,” she says with scorn, “because there is a child in this world that is mine."
I am staring at my laptop. There’s a landline nearby. The universe feels still. No iPhone shooting five email accounts my way like a stock ticker. I’m reading the Johnny Doc corruption indictment. I want to text people about this page-turner. I do not.
A photo editor comes by and whisks me to an outside balcony. I am photographed holding an iPhone encased in a block of ice. It’s an open secret that we journalists pretty much hate our iPhones.
We are giddy as the camera shutter clicks, clicks, clicks.
The iPhone is vibrating inside my handbag. Did one of my boys crack his skull at school?
Now is not the time for maternal fear.
I blow it off.
Maternal fear is powerful. I reach for a landline and call the hubs.
ME: Is anything going on?
SPOUSE: With what?
ME: I got a bunch of buzzes on my phone. Maybe it’s about the kids?
I remember a story I heard just a few weeks earlier. A dad dropped off his kid at a roller-skating party back in the 1980s. The kid broke his arm. No one had cell phones. Pops could not be summoned. A doctor-dad on the scene used a pizza box to splint the kid’s arm until the birthday had ended and dad had come back for his cargo.
Those were my people. We survived. My rejection of the iPhone suddenly feels all the more empowering.
Steve Jobs didn’t intend for his invention to become a sinister agent of deep dependency. The way computer scientist Cal Newport explained it in the New York Times, the idea of the iPhone becoming a “constant companion” was not part of the plan when Jobs first unveiled it.
If only Steve could see this newsroom: So many people on their phones when not tapping on their computers. One guy steps away from his desk to sit alone -- and scroll through the phone.
I urge him to consider taking up cigarettes.
I pass the office receptionist. She’s in a panic over a smartphone video game. I tell her I’m on an iPhone diet. She’s amazed.
“As of last night," she tells me, "I said to myself, ‘For the first hour of the day I don’t want to use my phone and the last hour of my day.’ ”
“It only lasted 10 minutes," she confesses.
I drive home with nothing but the radio to steer me through traffic. The evening sky has been swept clean by a frigid cold front. Time feels as if it has slowed down. I notice beauty on my drive through West Philly. I play with my boys before bed. I read a book for the first time in months.