The Day My Phone Broke: A Profile In Digital Dependency

I’ve heard people say they’re going to “unplug” for vacation, or “disconnect” for a while. I’m in my 50’s and I remember when there was no Internet of Things, let alone an Internet. You couldn’t just say “Okay Google” or “Hey Siri” and have your every fleeting wonder satiated with decisive, immediate answers. “Back in my day,” I can say while actually waving my cane in circles since I use one for my MS, “questions might never be answered and we just lived with that knowledge or looked it up in our Funk and Wagnalls,” which I have so graciously Wikipedia’d for you younger folks. See what I mean? Exactly how long did you need to wonder what that meant? Or how many elderly people did you quiz to find out?

So when someone says they’re going to take a digital vacation, I imagine myself doing the same thing and know deep down it could never happen. My smartphone and I are unified as one until death do us part, which, it turns out, was exactly what happened.

I feel my blood pressure rising and have a general sense of impending doom at the mere memory of just last week in the effort to retell the story…

I was a latecomer to the smartphone world of apps and text messaging and constant updates and time-sucking games, preferring my flip phone because “I don’t get it – I just need to make phone calls. Why on earth do I need all that other crap?” I really didn’t get it. My sister kept saying “You’ll love it! Then we can text each other and stuff.” My response was always “why would I do that when typing is more complicated that talking?”

But when the universe insisted my analog phone wasn’t welcome any more, I succumbed. I bought a Samsung Galaxy S3 and that marked the moment my digital addition began.

That was in 2012. Do you know how I know? I just picked up my Google Pixel XL and asked when that phone came out. I didn’t even miss a beat. There were a couple other phones along the way but when I got the LG G3 in (Googling it again) 2014 I finally had a screen big enough for my aging eyes and didn’t feel compelled to upgrade again.

I just had a conversation with someone 2 weeks ago about the fact that I still love my phone and it enhances my lifestyle perfectly. I can’t see buying another phone until this one craps out.

In retrospect, and not without a little paranoia, I wonder if that is code to tell the ever-listening, omnipresent Google to detonate a digital time bomb and force the new purchase?

However it happened, my LG G3 decided to not connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth but also wouldn’t stop trying no matter what I did. The endless loop of failed attempts drained my battery with a quickness.

“What good,” I argued to myself, “is a phone that won’t connect to the Internet??” Low how quickly I’ve changed my stance on “a phone is just a phone”. As it turns out, my phone is actually the hub to every other part of my life. I was still wrestling with the idea of how much I had changed my digital outlook and fighting the urge to replace the phone when next thing I know, the phone powered off and would not come back on.

At time of death, my phone was my lifeline to more than I was consciously aware. Its passing triggered  a cascade of events that directly impacted my own health and that of my family members.

Between the time my phone died and my new one was in-hand the following happened:

  • I missed 2 doses of my medication because my Medisafe app wasn’t reminding me to take it. This wasn’t a Flintstone’s vitamin we’re talking about — it was my MS disease modifying therapy that you cannot miss more than 10 straight doses or you have to be restarted in a hospital setting with a 6-hour observation period due to possible cardiac events.
  • My 93-year old mother missed a dose of her Eliquis (blood thinner) she takes for A-Fib
  • I stopped walking with my Fitbit as much because I couldn’t simultaneously see the updates on my phone and get a deeper dive than the device screen shows
  • I quit tracking my food in MyFitnessPal because exercise from my Fitbit wasn’t syncing and logging food by going to a computer required too much effort
  • Because I wasn’t exercising as much and didn’t have a clue about calorie intake, I gained 2 lbs.
  • I couldn’t use my Iris app to turn the lights on at night along our walkway
  • I overslept and was late for work because I didn’t have Alarm Clock Plus waking me up
  • I missed important calls
  • I stared out the window a lot, wondering how I ever became this dependent on digital technology

It was easy to become so reliant on my phone. I tell myself it’s okay because I have short term memory loss due to MS, so this is a mental crutch that’s helping me, much the same way my cane helps me not trip and land on my face. But would I be so comfortable being this addicted to my phone if I didn’t have a legitimate (in my mind) excuse?

The new phone arrived not a moment too soon – a Google Pixel XL – and I did what any new phone owner (addict) who has just upgraded does: I spent the next couple of days learning the phone, installing apps and wallpapers, fine tuning the settings, and trying out every single ringtone until it was qualified to be the successor to the phone that ran my life, may she rest in peace.

So I’m not going to untether from the Internet any time soon. We are back on schedule with our medications, I’m waking up on time, I can once again light the pathway to the house at night, I’m exercising again, I’m tracking my calories and I’m feeling like I’m once again in control of my life.

As it turns out, that was a lie all along. LG was controlling my life, and now that baton has been passed to Google, until death do us part – and I hope I outlast my Pixel XL.

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