Part of me really wants to give thumb communication the middle finger.
Much has been said and written about how people expend more energy and intention updating about their lives than they do living them. I mean, how many vacation photos have you seen with captions like, “Check out this sunset! Unreal!” Um, are you really enjoying that sunset? Or are you documenting it? “Kids at the park!” Oh I see, and you are playing with your phone while they choke on pea gravel? “Cheers! Happy Anniversary to us!” My, how romantic, dear God I hope we don’t get another update later. We used to have to suffer through other people’s photo albums if an evening took a nostalgic or narcissistic turn and the hosts pulled them off a dusty shelf, now we have to see them as they are happening. We are saying, “Look at my life” to random people more often than we are inviting special people to truly be part of it.
It’s kind of creepy and surreal, reading everyone’s super awesome updates. Hi from the Virgin Islands! Just got a promotion! Pregnant again! Bonjour from Paris! Junior holding his report card—straight A’s again! Here’s me on the finish line—Ironman’s are getting easier! Little Susie got into Harvard—yay!
No one ever posts the real stuff like: PMS again! Just ate a bag of Tostitos and an entire row of Oreos! Junior is barely scraping by with a C! Ruh-roh, just got pulled over! Still constipated! Hi from El Paso! I just gained five pounds! Losing my hair! Losing my mind! All the kids have lice! Boss said to clean out my desk! Johnny’s skipping college and might get a job at GameStop! No. No one says these things. These kinds of updates are reserved for actual conversation, between real friends, not cyber acquaintances we want to impress.
We carry our phones around the way people used to carry babies. Aww, careful now don’t drop it, they crack real easy! You don’t understand, I’m exhausted, I have to keep my eye on it every second. Let’s set it right here in the middle of our dinner, in case it makes a peep. (The second it does, you do understand I will have to tend to it, probably even take it to the bathroom or outside for a walk.) OH MY GOD I FORGOT IT IN MY CAR! We hold them, stare longingly at them, we monitor their batteries, we charge them in the car, we have Bluetooth for them, we (hopefully) put them on silent at the movies and in church, we go back home if we forget them, we are completely lost and forsaken if they disappear. They cause a lot of trouble on an airplane. We definitely don’t want our own children to have one too soon.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my phone. If I can’t find it, I have no idea what people’s phone numbers or addresses are, what I’m doing next if my calendar isn’t beeping instructions at me, and I wouldn’t know how to get there anyway without my phone’s map. It’s a tool, and I clearly rely on it too much. When someone says, “Sorry my phone battery died,” it can be an accepted excuse for pretty much anything. I forgot your name, your birthday, I couldn’t call, I’m late, I’m lost, I’m cheating, I’m a no-show, plans changed.
It scares me the way some younger people rarely make eye contact; a whole group of them ‘together’ yet silent, staring down at screens through shaggy side bangs. It scares me even more that ‘grown-ups’ are doing the same thing. I saw a married couple on a dinner date recently, fork in one hand and thumb on phone in the other. We are human beings. Beings need to Be. We cannot connect through updates. We can’t share our feelings through Emojis. We can’t date via text. We cannot share time if we won’t make it or take it.
It’s time to take our thumbs out of our (phones) and reengage in real life and in each other.