Cigarettes, Cellphones, and You

Thanks to the internet, finding a place of one’s own is easy. Claiming virtual territory is as simple as creating a username and password, and clicking Go.

Cell phones allow for the portability of this virtual territory. They are pieces of property, purchased naked, until they are filled with personal data and adorned with the latest bejeweled hardcase.

How is it that we’ve come to associate our interior lives so closely with something so, well, nonhuman? Could it be that the very thing we use to reaffirm our sense of self is the same thing that puts it into question?

Consider this: cell phones are making us nervous, the same way that cigarettes do. The smoker and the cellphone user each depend on a foreign body for comfort.

Cigarettes allow the smoker to pull away from a situation and engage in his own world, while still leaving communication lines open; they create just enough distance for personal meditation and reflection.

Cell phones, on the other hand, block off the physical world. For that moment of using, the cellphone user’s life is contained strictly within the parameters of a screen. It’s the difference between taking a drag and tapping a screen. Which sounds better?

The screen is a window into a virtual world that breeds false promise. The virtual life contained by a cellular device is inconsistent, but not in the same way as by a computer. Because cell phones are portable, users are expected to be “live” at all times.

At least with a computer, no one is expected to be available all day. It would seem that by becoming more available to other people, we’ve become less available to ourselves. When is the last time you took a quiet moment? A drag is sounding pretty good right now.
The cellular promise is a false one.

It promotes instant gratification, which is highly marketable. The truth is that, in the physical world, what we want requires work. We are often faced with moments of discomfort, and while it’s easy to slip into the consolation of a gadget (or cigarette), it may be healthier for the morale not to.

I invite readers to stop taking the easy way out. Challenge yourself to sit with your stress or anxiety in order to develop a long-term mechanism for coping, not a “quick fix” that has you coming back for more. Re-evaluate the root of your nervousness, then step up to face it. We are all capable of learning from our actions, of defying unhealthy habits.