I have always thought of myself as a 28-year-old relic, a charming throw-back to simpler times when I used the phone primarily to check the recorded movie times at the local cinema or to arrange a sleepover with Tara Gregg. I even relished the occasional interruption from our family’s landline; I’d race around the corner to pick it up after the first ring with a “Hello, this is the Lane Residence. How may I help you?”
But in the last ten years I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with being “plugged in,” or at least the expectation to be connected that comes with what we fogies like to call “this day and age.”
It’s the whole enterprise of communication technology that overwhelms me, really. Author Parker Palmer said it best when he tweeted, “I find dealing with email every day like being pecked to death by ducks.” I especially like the words of the Vishnu Purana, an ancient Hindu text that reads, “There is only one real knowledge: that which helps us to be free.” It’s discerning between knowledge that frees and that which binds that takes real wisdom.
I think what I fear most about getting an iPhone is that it will not bring me freedom but anxiety about how people are reacting or interacting with me all the time. I can’t help but feel unnecessarily vulnerable on social networking sites when all I’ve written is, “Need suggestions for a shwank cabin to rent in NC.” Will people think I’m pretentious for wanting a “shwank” cabin? Will my mother see the post and be disappointed that I am not traveling 400 miles to see her? Will friends feel left out that are not included in my plans?(I was relieved to read in Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood that one unsettling blog comment could leave her in a puddle on the kitchen floor, too.)
One of the few technological advancements I’m actually grateful for in the last ten years is caller ID which allows me to screen calls and return them only when I am centered for conversation. Privacy, protection, and prudence have replaced the joy I once felt chasing down a ring.
I don’t doubt some people could benefit from a technology fast. But when control itself is the sustenance, the fasting discipline easily turns into an addiction of restraint. It was with this in mind that I started wondering “if the lady doth protest too much.” Was my refusal to get an iPhone just another way to control for life’s constant interruptions? Another example of my stinginess to spring for the $30 a month data plan? Another reason to consider myself on the outskirts of my community when my friend paints a bad-ass portrait or my brother rips up the snow-covered slopes?
With these questions I nervously stepped into the Verizon store early Friday morning. When my name popped up on the screen, I squeezed Rush’s hand and said in my big girl voice, “I want my free iPhone 4, please. No protection plan. No accessories.”
I made it all the way to the check out counter without an anxiety attack. It wasn’t until the technician asked me, “Do you want to turn in your old phone?” that the heat waves started. “You’ll get ten bucks for it.”
I thought for a moment but it was all too fast, like trying to sleep in my own bed AND give up my binky all in one night.
“No, thanks. I’m going to hang onto her for now. She’s been faithful to me.”
And I hoped I was being faithful, too, in some odd way. By letting her go and becoming available to the unexpected.
“The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” – 1 Corinthians 1:25