The two kinds of people: pre-iPhone and post-iPhone people
I would pay for an enforced break from my phone, but younger people would struggle
“As much as I love my iPhone, it’s awfully pushy.”½Photograph: Kimberly White/Reuters
The media kerfuffle last week surrounding the 10th anniversary of the launch of the iPhone (not to be confused with the 10th anniversary of the announcement of the iPhone last January, whichI kerfuffled about back then) got me thinking about one of the more annoying memes circulating on social media.
Yes, so many to choose from, but the exasperating one that never seems to go away is the post that generally includes a picture of a serene cabin in a woods and states: “No cell phone, no Facebook, no computer access, no wifi for 3 months & you get $3 million. COULD YOU DO THIS.”
I’ll ignore the painful punctuation void here that forces the reader to supply the needed question mark (in the cold, eternal vacuum of poorly written social-media memes, no one can hear you scream) and state: I’ve always thought the answer is, self-evidently, yes.
And not only resoundingly yes, but I’d happily forgo the $3 million and pay someone to take away all of those life-intruding bits of kit, just so that I can finish reading the novel I started back in the first week of May. I’d really like to know how it ends before so much time passes that I’ve forgotten the plot.
But for a lot of people, being paid $3 million for three months of freedom from Trump tweets, #Jobstown debates and announcements of yet another resignation of a high-profile, sexually predatory venture capitalist is just not enough. Even if that sum amounts to a pretty decent first-round investment for a tech start-up.
I think the split between those who view a divorce from gadgets and the internet (with a very big settlement payout) as a spectacular blessing, and those who see it as an unbearable parting to be avoided at all costs, can be blamed on the iPhone. Chiefly, those who had an adult life before it, and those who have come of age in a post-iPhone world.
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Like no device before – and one that we truly did not know we would need, much less pay a lot for – the iPhone gave us instant online gratification by plugging us into the web immediately from just about anywhere.
Because the iPhone was never really about the phone, but the i.
Pre-iPhone, accessing the net from a mobile was clunky, unintuitive and slow, and the screen was small and the display was poor, even on the existing high-end smartphones. Then, with the arrival of the iPhone in mid-2007, suddenly we had a bright, engaging, comparatively large screen because now the keyboard was gone. That interactive, touchscreen phone changed everything.
Now we just tap and are online with websites displayed in an easily viewable way. Too small to see vertically? Just turn the phone sideways. Touch, pinch and zoom. It’s all so easy.
We have lift-off
Endless bar and pie graphs show how the smartphone market blasted off from 2007 and the iPhone’s launch. Soon we had lots of similar devices and we were all online far more than ever before.
No surprise, then, that social media also took off at this point. Newly fledged Twitter and just-open-to-the-general-public Facebook caught that rising wave. An inbuilt great camera with easy-to-post functionality, and away we went with cat videos, snaps of our restaurant meals and citizen journalism.
Then the iPhone gave us the ongoing, addictive horror of apps. Who among us wasn’t sucked in, initially by the wonders of the Nasa app, or park by text or always-on news or much-faster Facebook? Now we swipe through screen after screen of all the apps we’ve downloaded and never use to get to those we do: park by text, news and Facebook.
Now, even though I’m a Twitter and news addict, I would still consider an enforced three-month break from all this as manna from heaven.
But I suspect a post-iPhone generation would break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of total withdrawal because – thanks to the mobile internet revolution brought about by that device a decade ago – online is daily life.
It’s the fulcrum for interactions with friends, work and family, news, entertainment, travel, music, joy and despair. It’s where everything is. For those of us that bit older, it isn’t where everything is, and it’s where a lot of our friends and family still aren’t. We also remember work and life before we were always on and always reachable all the time – and expected to respond.
So, as much as I love my iPhone, it’s awfully pushy and intrusive and life-limiting at times. Show me the way to that forest cabin for full digital detox, please.