When I got my first smartphone a few years back -- the G1, which was the first Android device, not that I'm bragging -- I treated it like a godsend. After all, I now had the Internet in my pocket.
Now sure, back in the dark ages of 2008 the service was spotty and often slow, but still: Being able to go online whenever and wherever was great. It freed me from the monotony of monotony. If I was bored -- like in a long line, for instance -- I'd just whip out my phone and not be bored anymore.
It didn't take long until I'd find myself in other boring situations -- at a red light, in the bathroom, or right about now -- and I'd whip out my phone to check my Fantasy team, or Twitter, or Facebook, or a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Today? There's no other word for it: I'm addicted. It's gotten to the point that if I don't have my phone on me, I'm both mentally and physically upset. I need it either in my hand, my pocket, or next to my bed at all times. I'm constantly checking it, and it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. The worst is when I'm playing with my kids, and the moment there's a break in the action, I'll pull the thing out. It's not just old-fashioned "boredom' at play here; it's become a conditioned response. If I have a free second, I'm probably going to check my phone.
I know I'm not alone.
Remember the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy?' Great flick. Basic plot point is this: A Coke bottle falls from the sky into the Kalahari desert and the tribe of bushmen who find it consider it a gift from the gods. They discover many wonderful uses for this Coke bottle, but eventually, it causes too much grief and jealousy and anger and they decide to throw the thing off the edge of the Earth.
Have you seen the new Facebook commercial, for it's "Home' app? In it, there's an extended family sitting around a dinner table, and a woman is leading the most boring conversation ever. "This morning when I went to the supermarket, I finally found the pet aisle,' she begins. Three seconds later, a young woman sitting next to the pet aisle woman checks out her phone -- which she's hiding under the table -- and looks at the Facebook feeds of her friends, which are then superimposed as live action on top of the boring dinner conversation. Rockin' rock bands and beautiful ballet recitals and super-fun snowball fights fill the screen as the boring story goes on and on.
The message could not be clearer: Whatever is happening on your phone -- in this case, on Facebook -- is better than whatever "boring' thing is happening in your life right now. It's telling us to forget the world around us and go full-bore into cyberspace.
It would be like McDonald's running a commercial showing a sad little boring family eating plain chicken and steamed carrots and intercut it with much happier family gorging themselves on Big Macs, 20 piece McNuggets and then, just to hammer the point home, mainlining secret sauce.
The latter is telling us to completely give up on a balanced diet; the former is telling us to completely give up on a balanced life, to stop daydreaming, to stop listening to our droning aunts, to stop engaging in the world around us and instead sink our brains into our phones.
I am very, very good at doing this.
I can argue a few points about myself here: I use my phone for work, I use social media for work, I need to be connected. Valid points. But I don't need to be checking eBay for baseball cards while I'm playing action figures with my son. I don't need to be checking Rotoworld when I have a moment to myself and I'm reading a book. I don't need to do a Twitter search for a New York Times article (to workaround the paywall) when my wife is asking me what I'd like for dinner.
And it took this stupid Facebook commercial to make me realize all this, which in turn makes me feel pretty stupid myself.
So will I be making any Kalahari bushmen grand gestures, chucking my Galaxy S3 -- great phone, BTW -- off the edge of the Earth? Not likely, no. But I am going to be more cognizant of how I use this tool.
I want to hear more about the pet aisles of this world. At least I'll be present and accounted for, instead of ... not.
As for the tagline below, well, let's just leave it at "irony' and move on.
Jeff Edelstein can be reached at facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and twitter.com/jeffedelstein.