Milam’s Musings

There was a quaint time when the phone in my pocket flipped and the only thing it could do was send text messages and take small, grainy pictures.

In fact, it’s not even been full calendar year since I had to flip open my phone and actually maneuver my fingers around a keypad.

And yet, since finally upgrading and acquiring a smartphone, it feels like a digital eternity.

Now I wonder how I functioned with that relic of a flip phone in my pocket. Unable to be my compass when I inevitably got lost driving somewhere. Unable to update my Facebook status. Unable to take a video. To snap. To Tweet. To email. To listen to a podcast.

And yet, I made it to the age of 23 healthy, in college and with some friends, all the same.

I’m not sure what was behind my stubbornness in holding out on joining the smartphone world. Perhaps, given where my political sensibilities are, I’ve always had something of a contrarian streak in me.

After all, I was the type of kid to avoid the Pokemon fad when it came barrelling into my childhood. I had nothing against Pikachu and the rest of ‘em (he’s the only one I know…), but there’s an innateness within me to stake my flag in the harder ground.

It certainly had nothing to do with being opposed to technological advances or thinking my generation was too self-absorbed in the screen of their smartphones. I’ve always found those arguments cliched and without much merit.

However, I can’t help but look back on my pre-smartphone days with sadness. I’m teetering toward, “those were simpler times,” but they really were.. I wasn’t as “plugged in.”

I miss not having to “know” what’s going on at literally every second of every day. For instance, when I get out of a class now, I feel as if I’ve missed everything.

In those days, I read books more instead of scrolling through my Twitter feed seeking articles or clever 140-character Tweets. Today, Safari on my smartphone has endless articles waiting to be read and more added every day.

In those days, I could focus on movies and the latest television binge more instead of finding the movie theater the only place to “unplug” fully.

In those days, my favorite time of the day was that space between awake and sleeping, when you’d reflect on the day’s events and tomorrow’s possibilities. Today, that space is occupied by a glow in my face with the allure of more to see.

Maybe these seem like silly nostalgia points, but being so plugged in all the time is exhausting. I want to unplug more, far more than I do right now.

But it sure is a case of easier said than done. The only time I’m ever truly unplugged is when I’m sleeping and since my body runs on Monster and Starbucks, that’s far too rare.

The smartphone is simultaneously the best drug for a political and cultural junkie and well, it’s still a drug.

Tweets from, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic or really, anything from the New York Times; fellow libertarians musing on Facebook; long-form articles about an exonerated death row inmate or a rape survivor; fiction stories with prose that dances on the page. These are my drug of choice.

And the red-numbered notifications? That’s like validation of your drug habit — someone else is plugged into  your outlet.

Sometimes, it’s not all serious, either. I enjoy a darkly comedic comic strip from Cyanide and Happiness or the latest funny skit from Jimmy Fallon (the Saved by the Bell reunion one was on point).

There’s always something trending, something happening, something to look at. Sometimes, I wish I could just tell my brain to hush, my eyeballs to reside behind my eyelids comfortably and to get back to that space of reflection.

I wonder how many others are inundated in this way. When they’re at a restaurant, they’re thinking of the best filter to apply to their craft beer to post to Instagram; engaging in conversation with someone in the digital realm while their feet are planted with another person; looking at the Timehop of those times in the past when you were also plugged in.

Maybe we all need to get together and have an intervention. Find a way to unplug, even it’s just a little bit. Maybe there’s an app for — dangit.