I switched mobile carriers and platforms this week. My timing was off; and, as a result, I have had 48 hours without a working mobile phone. This troubles me, not because I feel a profound sense of isolation from my contacts and the world. In reality, I am not disconnected. And seclusion is not a loathsome condition for me anyway. I rather enjoy camping out in the Smoky Mountains, where you would be hard pressed to obtain a wireless signal. No, my dilemma has been that I have a nauseating sense that people have been desperately trying to reach me at my old number. (I relinquished that number deliberately for a number of reasons; more on that later.)
Part of my problem is that I paid for express delivery, and, naturally, the shipment has been delayed. I did visit a brick-and-mortar shop, but the staff were not competent, or they were condescending, or I’ll come up with some other not-my-fault reason why I didn’t stick around. Chalk it up to low blood glucose. In any case, I stand by my decision to order things online. My unlocked phone arrived sooner than expected, so at least I was able to configure some settings and download apps in preparation.
Now, I realize I sound like someone for whom this handy little bit of technology has become a necessity. I freely admit that I carry the devilish little microcomputer with me everywhere. I find myself looking up obscure or inconsequential data, like the fact that Nick Offerman and Megan Mallally (Ron Swanson and Tammy II) are real-life husband and wife. Going without the portal to all the world’s knowledge in my pocket has made me feel oddly out-of-commission, but mainly due to the feeling that people have been unable to reach me. I imagine there have been group conversations, where someone keeps asking for me to respond.
I admit to my self-conscious, perhaps egocentric, attitude. In reality there should be a world in which any one of us could be out of reach for a weekend. I remember the ’90s, when this was the norm. Not many of us had mobile phones back then. We didn’t have the possibility of staying connected beyond our immediate companionship. But I’m not going to make this a rant about how things were “back in my day”. There are plenty of posts from people of every generation bemoaning the loss of their youth and complaining about the youth of today, about how we or they take everything for granted. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Monday may be back to normal. But I’m reminded of where we are as a culture, dependent on mobile technology, where even going to the movies requires an app. I wonder where we’re headed. A few TV programs like Black Mirror and The Orville have showed us one version of the future. I think it’s possible we might be making a move toward society where public opinion can overrule truth. We’re already seeing this. Facts are valued less than emotions. Opinion is presented as fact. I’m not worried because every generation has witnessed what they perceive as a decline of civilization. First it was a proliferation of contractions in our language. What’s next?
Everything will change. Even the things that seem to be constant have changed. For example, currency has been with us since the beginning. Crypto-currency, however, is revolutionizing how we think about money. Someday, perhaps gene therapy may replace our current methods of fighting diseases, but we will always have disease. Having mobile internet is so commonplace now. I wonder what will change as a result of generations of people being accustomed to the wealth of knowledge. We’re always ready to record events and non-events. We can produce movies with smartphones. And a lot of this has all happened within a lifetime.
As for me, I’m hardly secluded. Even without my mobile, I am excessively connected. But this brief hiatus has reminded me that human interaction is fundamental to our society. I’ve come to cherish my local board game dinner group. Four to six people sitting around a table, sharing a meal and playing Pandemic or Tribune or Bootleggers (one of my favorites). If you prefer keeping to yourself, reading or doing a little writing is a great way to pass the time without being “connected” (although I feel like I’m transported when I read.)
My anxiety is mounting, and I think it’s mainly because I am disconnected in a perpetually connected world. My friends and family members might be freaking out now. Possibly my employer is wondering about me. No emails today, so probably everything is okay. And today is Sunday. I’ll find out soon enough when I reconnect with my people and provide my new number. Some apologies will be made, and things will be back to their 21st century state of normalcy. For now, it’s a little weird.