My iPhone and I started dating right around the time Jake deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. I was lonely. I was at home with a baby in the country with no cable TV, family, or vast network of friends. I got an iPhone — an iPhone 4, the one without the creepy voice of Siri — not so much because I was by myself, but because I needed a new phone. It didn’t take long before I was sucked into the digital matrix: checking my email while June played, texting, reading Gawker, taking reams of photos to be saved, uploaded, edited, emailed, Instagrammed and forgotten.
Then Jake came home. A subtle shift had taken place during his absence. I was still the same wife, just distracted. My smart phone infatuation wasn’t nearly as severe as a lot of people’s. I have a friend who can’t eat a sandwich without digitally chronicling the entire fascinating journey. I never took the iPhone to bed with me. That would be crazy, he he. But I’d occasionally check it during dinnertime, or movies at home (otherwise known as Date Night with Jake) and there was an increasing gap between the time it took Jake to ask me a question and my response. “Hold on, Jake, lemme finish this text!” I’d say, my thumbs padding the screen. He’d give me the same weary look I’d give to the friend who obsessively photographs her sandwiches. “It’s for work!” I’d say to such reproach. Jake accused me of being a slave to technology, another Twitter hampster — updating fake friends regarding fake concerns. “I HAVE to be connected,” I’d say. “It’s my JOB.” “Uh-huh,” he’d say. “Riiiight.” I’d shrug and go back to selecting the appropriate Instagram filter for a photo.
I chocked up Jake’s annoyance to him being a brick-and-mortar guy. He doesn’t have a smart phone. He doesn’t Tweet. He doesn’t Instagram. He’d rather die before signing up for a Facebook account. (Seriously, logging onto Facebook anymore is like going to Spencer’s.) He doesn’t get it. He said I was being antisocial.
But then June, 2, discovered the iPad. She’s at the parrot stage where everything I say, she says, everything I do, she wants to do. She’d seen me imbedded in the iPad so frequently that she wants a piece of the action. So I downloaded a bunch of toddler friendly apps for her — monkeys, dinosaurs, numbers, memory games, drawing — and let her have at it, figuring this is the world she lives in, it does her no favor to deprive her of technology now. Plus it allowed me to get back to watching Gangnam Style on YouTube. After a couple of days, she was swiping and pressing like a pro. There we were, mom and daughter, side by side, together but apart, equally distracted.
At some point while we pressed and swiped, I realized I was glimpsing the future. There will come a day when June tunes me out. It is written. This “talk to the hand” reality is exacerbated by technology. My digital addiction is only laying the groundwork. If she grows up thinking she only deserves half or partial my attention, she’s only going to be able to give me an infinitesimal fraction of hers by the time she’s ten. My ego can’t handle that.
So me and my gadgets are going through a trial separation. We’re in the process of breaking it up. We’re trying to end it. We still see each other…a lot…but our trysts are more clandestine. We meet in secret. In an empty bedroom, around a corner, surreptitiously in the car. Not when June and I play blocks. Or read stories. Or eat dinner. Or when trying to have a conversation with my husband. Geez, I guess I really was getting out of hand.
I wonder if there will ever come a day when obsessively playing with a smart phone in public will be perceived as tacky as clipping one’s toenails. Or maybe I’m just now getting the memo that it already is.