The prompt this time was “This electronic life I lead.” Here’s what I wrote in response:
A friend once lost her cell phone down a storm drain, and after the first few teary moments were over, she said she felt liberated. For three weeks she put off the inevitable visit to the wireless store, because, as she put it. she could think again. When people wanted to communicate with her, they had to leave a message on her home phone, or send it to her in an email, or drop by and ring her doorbell. But most of all, they had to wait. And so did she.
When she had the urge to make a call, she had to wait until she was near a phone. If she wanted to check her email, she had to wait until she was back home or back in her chair at the office. What could have felt like a disconnection from everyone in her life instead felt like a return to the self. She found she now took long, contemplative walks, or long drives, in silence. She read a book while she waited for the train. She made time to wander aimlessly, window shopping when she had a spare hour; she had more lunch dates. She even wrote letters. Something about the loss of the immediacy we have all come to expect from this push-button culture vanished, and she found herself connecting more authentically with others—and herself—off the grid.
Recently, however, she bought an iPhone, the queen of smart phones, and admitted to me that she is now addicted to it. She replied to one of my emails recently, and a message automatically generated at the bottom of her email read: “Sent from my iPhone, at the top of the Empire State Building.” In her email reply to me, she wrote, “You’ll never guess where I am right now!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her I knew exactly where she was, actually. I didn’t want to ruin her surprise. But she suddenly felt very far away.