iPhone: Why I Resist

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by Heather

So I have issues with iPhones. My husband will tell you it’s because I’m a techno-phobic Luddite.  Which is true–but isn’t why I resist getting on the iPhone/Blackberry bandwagon.  Let me illustrate.

This spring some girlfriends and I went to NYC. One afternoon we are all on the boat to Ellis Island and Sande and I are having view-gasms at the sight of the Statue of Liberty. The Lady is just gorgeous.  We turn to share our emotion with our companions…to find them texting away or reading Facebookor whatever, totally oblivious to the 150 ft goddess towering above us.

“Excuse me ladies,” I say, “but to quote a line from Barbie’s Princess and the Pauper, ‘Be present, be pleasant, and be proud.’”   I clearly say it louder than I’d intended because on the next row of benches two men turn around and one asks me to repeat the quote as his boyfriend whips out his electronic gadget and types it in: “’Be present….be pleasant…be proud.’ Barbie you say? Jonathan, we need to remember that.”

The phrase, the first part at least, reflects a real struggle in my life.  Frequently I am not where I am supposed to be. Physically I am at church, or a meeting, or the dinner table with my kids, but mentally I am elsewhere, often aided and abetted by an electronic device.   While the kids chatter about their day I am straining to listen to “All Things Considered” on NPR. I’m ashamed to admit how often I talk on the phone to my girlfriends or sister when I have a real live child of mine near me who will never be exactly that age again.

My kids used to cringe when they saw me bring out my camera because they know I disappear behind the lens.  I get so obsessed with capturing a moment that I cease to be part of it; with my camera I am a historian not a participant. It’s been a real challenge but over time I’ve learned that if I want to really remember an event, from the inside out, I have to leave my camera behind.   So some family times that are most dear to me are never recorded. But I remember them in a way I couldn’t have if I hadn’t been truly present.

If I get this distracted by the radio, a camera, and a simple cell phone, I’m terrified what an iPhone would do to me. I’d be the person in a movie theater, missing half the show because I’d recognize a face and have to IMDB the actor to figure out where else I’d seen them.  Many times while out to dinner with my husband, I’ll make him look something up for me on his phone—what is Ben Kingsley’s real name (Krishna Bhanji) ? Who was the prostitute in The Brother’s Karamozov(Grushenka)?

Last weekend was our stake conference. I attended the Saturday night session but didn’t hear much of it. I was too busy getting text messages from friends.  I felt like I was in junior high again, passing notes, making jokes about the speaker, wondering where we should go eat after, explaining why we were late, etc. And as much as I hated myself for it, and even though it takes me forever to pluck out a message (I can’t even do that predictive thing), I could not stop. I could not be present. Or pleasant. I was not proud. The next day I left my phone in the car. The kids were distracting, and some of the talks were boring. But I was there, body and mind.

So I struggle. I’m a social creature. I want to share my thoughts instantaneously with my people. I want to be in the know. But I also want the people who are with me to know I am trying to be there for them, physically and emotionally. So I resist getting a frickin iPhone.  I want to be present. Some people can do both. I can’t.

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14 Responses

  1. Katherine says:

    Good for you! I am 23 and an engineer, and I have NEVER sent a text message. I struggle to be present, and I would much rather talk to people than text. When I went on a study abroad recently, I struggled to balance being present and enjoying the experience with trying to record everything in my journal. It definitely is a struggle. Plus, I am too cheap to pay for an iPhone and data plan.

  2. Linda says:

    Heather thank you for sharing your struggle!
    It is one that plagues all of us who live in
    this day and age of instant information. I
    work with the youth in my stake and it is a
    constant theme and message we try to send to
    them. We challenge the youth (and in the
    process ourselves) to learn at an early age
    how to disconnect, unwire and turn off so that
    they can more fully understand how to listen
    and more importantly, hear spiritual promptings.
    It doesn’t get easier as an adult (few things
    in my opinion do). I made a decision a few
    years ago to stop “multitasking” at work.
    Instead of typing emails while listening to
    a conf call, I simply began being present on
    the call and was amazed at how much more I
    took away from that conference call.
    The experiment extended into other areas of my
    life – specifically my interactions with people

    It’s a constant learning experience. As I have learned
    to be present and give something my full
    attention, my stress level has reduced
    dramatically, I am more at peace because I
    have a greater understanding of what and who
    I am interacting with. I disagree that some
    people can do both. They may be able to
    physically do several things at once but my
    experience has been that they (including myself)
    do none of them well. Congrats on taking
    your first steps and leaving your phone in the
    car. You may have been bored but over time
    you will be amazed at how much you actually
    enjoy being present. Thanks for your insights!

  3. Jana says:

    I’m no Luddite, but I’m with you on the iPhone. I may eventually get a device similar to this one, but I’m not an early adopter primarily because I find it rather annoying when the people I’m with are continually checking email or texting.

    Recently my tween daughter had friends over for a bday party. The gaggle of girls were following our kitties around with their phones, taking pics and sending them around to their friends. I observed that it’s hard to pet a cat when you’ve got a phone in your hand…and there’s certainly something of a loss there, IMO.

  4. I think I shared your recognition of the need to be present even in prehistoric times: Unless it was specific, unintuitive data like dates or mathematical formulas, I could never do well taking notes in school classes. I found it far better to concentrate on understanding the material as it was presented, than in trying to record an abbreviated version of the material to understand later.

    I recently attended some bouts of the Golden Gloves boxing competition in Salt Lake (don’t ask). I was startled to see so many mothers and grandfathers and coaches focused on watching their young mens’ competitions through the lens of a cell phone camera. If they don’t have time to “be present” at such an event, when will they have time to watch their low resolution videos? How can such pictures jog a memory that was never really felt in the first place?

    So sign me up in agreement with your observations. I’d love an iPhone or Blackberry “just in case” of need, but it would generally have to be a butler, taking messages for me to read later, rather than taking me away from the present to focus on cyber pseudoreality.

  5. stacer says:

    Personally, as a photographer, I *like* being a part of things yet getting to take pictures. I don’t think it’s an either-or thing. I like the ability to communicate that these technologies give us, and I *like* being able to look something up on the internet if I forget about it, because it’s usually germane to the conversation I’m in with other tech-savvy friends.

    Just like anything else, it’s all about how you use it, not whether you use it. I would never dream of texting in church. But I don’t think it’s really something to be proud of that one has never sent a text message either. It just is what it is. If it’s useful to your life, use it. If it’s not useful, end the practice. I leave my phone (a smartphone with Windows Mobile on it, not an iPhone) in the car all the time when I’m doing things I don’t want to be interrupted by, but I think it’s just as useful to *have* it when I want it.

    I think the thing about your post that most connects with how I think about it is the last two sentences: “Some people can do both. I can’t.” Definitely, it’s good for anyone to recognize where they are weak and to build ways to strengthen themselves to be present and in the moment. But I think it’s just as important to recognize that some people’s *way* of being present is being the photographer.

    But then, as I said, I’m a photographer. I like–no, really, love–capturing moments in time, looks on friends’ faces, strange ephemera that I see while on trips. I don’t think that makes me not-present. It just brings me into that present in a different manner.

  6. Dora says:

    Seeing both sides of the issue and going cross-eyed!

    I long for an iPhone. Love Apple products. Love sleek design. Love email. Hate talking on the phone and texting.

    However, I am absolutely annoyed by unpresent iPhoners who can’t seem to make it through a church service or dinner without genuflecting multiple times at the altar of their iPhone. To paraphrase Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Ambition/iPhone is a good servant, but a terrible master.”

  7. Kelly Ann says:

    Be present, Be pleasant, Be proud!

    Thanks for this Heather. I totally agree.

  8. Angie says:

    In defense of using an iPhone at church, my scriptures are an application on my iPhone. (comment posted from an iPhone)

  9. Caroline says:

    Love this, Heather. I have really not jumped onto the cell phone technology bandwagon whatsoever. Not only do I not know how to text, I also only have 50 minutes a month on my cell phone. I’m just not drawn to the idea of constantly texting and talking on the phone, and part of that, I think, revolves around the idea of trying to be present in the moment.

  10. stacer says:

    My cell phone is my only phone (being single and living alone, it makes little sense to have a home phone), so between business tasks and the few personal phone calls I make (I hate talking on the phone), I use a very minimal plan. Yet with my Smartphone, the data plan isn’t that much more a month, and it’s useful, so I went ahead with it.

    I agree that you need to be present where you are–texting in church is kind ofa no-brainer to me–but I don’t think that avoiding helpful technology altogether is the answer.

  11. G says:

    oh man… this is SO me. Poor hubby and son (etc) totally know what it’s like to have a ‘not-present’ G in their midst, glued to the ‘puter.

    And the picture thing, yeah, I’m huge into trying to document all the events, but it does distract from me being able to just relax, enjoy, participate. Case in point: we just did a triathlon, hubby and I. And my main concern; how to be able to grab the camera in between running/biking/swimming to try to snap the perfect shot. It’s an addiction. But, on the other hand, I love having the pictures…
    finding balance.

  12. EBrown says:

    Resistance is futile.

  13. newt says:

    Heather, I totally sympathize! My sister and I don’t even have a TV for that same reason. I know I would just be zoned out every evening after work if we had it.

  14. Kiri Close says:

    Is ‘presencing’ an experience of singularity according to each individual?
    Being ‘there’ in ‘body and mind’, too?

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