By Randall Sokoloff
Before my wife acquired her iPhone 5, she and I shared a lot of moments together. Those were the “good old days.” I look back upon those pre-iPhone 5 days with the same kind of fond nostalgic pondering that I sometimes get lost in when thinking about my youth. I remember how we used to do things together and talk. While driving, eating, walking, hanging out on the couch, gardening, sitting by the pool- we were always engaged in some kind of conversation. We looked into each other’s eyes at least a hundred times a day and it felt good knowing that her attention was consistently focused on me.
Then came the iPhone 5.
I was concerned from the start. Not so much because I was worried that the iPhone 5 would take her mind away from me. No, I did not see that coming. I was worried because I knew that such advanced technology in the palm of a person’s hand had the potential to turn a person away from their own inherit creativity and imagination and as a result turn them into a kind of replaceable, information driven, socially networked, zoned out automaton. I was also concerned that the continual exposure to the strong digital glare that emanates from smart phone screen would somehow have a detrimental effect on her beautiful face.
The iPhone 5 made its entry into our marriage gradually. The first month or so that she had the phone I did not notice it showing up on our walks, in our bed, at our dinner table, on our couch, in our car or by the pool. She seemed to use it with the mindful detachment and caution that is necessary to keep such a functional, simplified and aesthetically pleasing device from taking over every aspect of a person’s life.
But like a tree gradually shedding leaves in the fall, the iPhone 5 and my wife started to become more and more dependent on one another as the days passed by. At first she was using iCalendar to take care of her work schedule. Then she was using the Facebook app to access her Facebook account. Then she stopped using her computer to check and send her emails and began to only use her phone to do this. I now realize that it was bad advice on my part, but because I was not yet hip to how I would soon be in competition with an iPhone 5, I recommended that my wife try out the kindle app and read books and magazines on her iPhone. Of course she loved the idea and ever since has been absorbed in reading novels and magazines from the convenience of her iPhone. This is how it happens. In no time your entire universe exists inside your phone. Friends, movies, books, articles, emails, work, photos, music, meditation and copious amounts of information. I didn’t see it coming.
While lying in bed at night my wife would often come on to me. As I was reading, I became familiar with the sensation of her fingers tiptoeing their way under my sweat pants. Now before going to sleep for the night her fingers are pre-occupied with holding, fiddling with and maneuvering her iPhone 5. It has been almost a month since she has come on to me before bed. When we sit on the couch or outside by the pool she is staring into the screen of her iPhone 5 looking at something, reading something or shopping for something. Other than a few fragmented sentences- there is not much said between us. Same goes for when we are sitting at a dinner table or are out at a cafe- she is on her iPhone 5 and I am trying not to be offended. I am lucky if she looks in my eyes more than a dozen times a day.
Have you ever tried telling someone who does something or uses something all the time that they are addicted to that something? If you have you are probably familiar with the angry, hostile, defensive and bitter response that I receive. When I tell my wife that she is using her iPhone 5 way too much she immediately fires back: “That is not true at all, I have barley been on it at all today, I am not on my phone that much.” She seems to really believe what she is saying, but from my perspective she is in total denial of reality. I realize that when we are in love or dependent on something, time stands still when we are with that something or someone. But just because there is a feeling of timelessness when my wife uses her iPhone 5 does not mean that she is not using it that much. She is on it all the time!
So now I am in competition with the iPhone 5 for my wife’s attention. It seems that whenever I ask her to put her phone away and focus on being present with me she becomes deeply agitated and as a result, so do I. I try not to do this unless it is absolutely necessary. I try and start conversations and get her interested in things that I have to say that she may find more interesting than the stuff she is reading or watching on her phone. The only two topics that really succeed in doing this are sex and dogs and I have a limited supply of things to say when it comes to sex and dogs.
I understand that this is the direction that relationships are heading in. I realize that the future is a place where husband and wife spend more time on their smart phones than they do looking in to one another’s eyes. I realize that deep and constant conversation between a couple is an endangered species and the future will consist of couples having the most general, basic and superficial communication exchanges because they are too absorbed in the universe of their smart phones. As human beings we seem to be evolving further and further away from one another and more and more into the compact space of a digital screen. I have been debating giving in to this evolutionary trend and going out and getting myself an iPhone 5. Why not get with the times? My grandfather always used to say, “If you can’t beat em, join em” and maybe this applies in this particular situation. Maybe I should just hop on the train and head in the same direction as human evolution (or de-evolution depending on who you talk to) is taking so many other married couples. Then maybe I won’t spend so much time, sitting there, staring up at the sky and waiting for my wife to get off her iPhone 5.
Randall Sokoloff is a fiction writer, artist, mindfulness instructor and psychotherapist living in the smoggy suburbs of Los Angeles California. Randall was an inner city high school teacher for over a decade and started the first Bay Area Mindfulness program for violent youth in Oakland, California. This began his journey as a psychotherapist. He prefers being over doing, living in the moment over worrying about the future, breathing over thinking and dogs over cats. Randall has had the good fortune to marry his soul mate whom he considers to be a wonderful writer, artist, lover, cook and psychotherapist but he also feels like it would be great if she was not on her iPhone so much. Randall’s blog can be found at: www.absurdistry.wordpress.com