I am seated in a rocking chair at Dayton International Airport, flight delayed, thumbing through tweets, photos, and various bits of miscellanea on the device in my palm while I wait to find out whether my next flight will be canceled. Everyone around me seems to be doing the same thing. We are a sea of people lost in the mesmerizing glow of our screens—alone together.
Suddenly, an ominous red bar interrupts my handheld activities, accompanied by a warning: low battery.
My first reaction: frustration, irritation, annoyance. Why the hell is my phone about to die? I can’t believe this stupid freaking thing!
Of course, I have been pacifying myself for the last hour (or two), frantically fiddling with the touchscreen, hopping from icon to icon, searching for the next ephemeral rush of dopamine. My behavior: reactionary and impulsive and the opposite of mindful. These activities, when done in excess, are as meaningless as channel surfing, resulting in an endless amount of low-level anxiety—a sort of postmodern itch, not unlike that of a heroin addict as he stumbles through withdrawal.
But it’s not my phone’s fault, it’s mine: rarely does the blame belong to the material thing itself. The stuff is not the problem—we are.
Realizing this, I set down the phone and breathe in the world around me, but only after sending one final tweet:
If your phone is constantly “about to die,” then maybe it’s not the phone that has a problem.