I tend to run behind—not in terms of making my appointments or fulfilling my commitments—but in terms of adopting new technology, of keeping up with the latest gadgets, gizmos, and must-have devices.
I’m a bit of a technophobe, lacking both the patience and the aptitude to wade through the manual or help menu of an iPhone or Blackberry, intimidated by the plethora of options, choices, and potential problems outlined therein. But there is another reason, beyond my lack of patience, why I’ve been reluctant to get a real phone or tablet device; I may be either too smart or not smart enough to own one.
A wise man once told me that true wisdom involves knowing oneself, and in that area, I do have a healthy portion of self-knowledge. And what I know (beyond the fact that I am cheap, and don’t want to spend $100+ a month on a plan that allows Internet access) is that I have the self-control of a hound in heat, or a mosquito drawn to a bug zapper. Since I got cable Internet about 8 years ago, when it was wired into my condo building, I’ve gradually come to spend more time online, and less time being productive. Before, my morning routine consisted of five to ten minutes of stretching, and a gradual easing into the day. Today, it consists of checking my Gmail, Hotmail, and Facebook accounts and one or two dating sites, just to see if someone liked my book or (more importantly) my online profile.
So, while I haven’t veered into outright addiction, I do have a little problem with my Internet usage, in the same way that a foodaholic might have a small problem with chocolate or cheesecake. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a serious love/hate relationship with my Apple laptop. The device’s slim form allows me to write in cafes and restaurants. But the wireless access built into the laptop leads to endless distraction, and countless means of avoiding the act of writing, which (to write, that is) was the primary reason I bought the computer in the first place.
My current Samsung flip-phone, which I picked up for $20, doesn’t allow me to use the Internet, which keeps me somewhat more grounded in my body as I walk from place to place, or drive around town. This is a good thing, as I am distracted by the latest shiny object that is dangled in front of my eyes, be it a hot barrista at Starbucks or the site of Channing Tatum’s hairless pecs, which are omnipresent online. (I’ve checked this out—it’s called “research.”)
Maybe I should just give in, as it seems that virtually everyone around me under the age of 50 has acquired a smartphone. I can feel my resolve weakening when I hear a friend talking about a hot man he met on Grindr (“yeah, there’s an app for that”). Still, I’m skeptical as to whether a better phone would lead to a better social life. After all, the excitement and expectation that pulsed through me when I first discovered the Internet in the mid ‘90s, which led to Planet Out and Match.com, has waned, replaced by the gray light of reality.
Today, just shy of my 55th birthday, would an iPhone lead me to a promised land of hot dates? Would my new pictures, taken with the state of the art camera in my new phone lead to encounters with handsome men, a more youthful appearance, the dating life I never had? Or would I simply repeat the experiences of the Phoenix personals, the Gay Dating Show, and Planet Out—a series of false promises that never came true?
I cruise the Internet too many times a day, looking for something I can’t define—ethereal—outside myself, something to distract myself from the worries, frustration, boredom of my daily life.
A smartphone would give me instant access and constant temptation, and the risk of having my mind and body disconnected, divorced from itself, like a woman stretching at my gym. There, next to me on the mat, she was a human pretzel, a telephonic contortionist, texting while her head hung just above the ground in pigeon pose.
Meanwhile I dither, putter, and delay. Yet I sense it coming. I will no doubt yield to the power of technology, as I’ve yielded to the answering machine, voicemail, and personal computer. I hear its seductive lover’s whisper, the siren call, promising me that with the right phone all things are possible, if not probable.