I’m in love, and I’ll shout it from the highest – wait, hold on – I have a call coming in. OK, thanks, as I was saying, we’re so happy together and – just a second – I need to respond to this text. There, fine, done. Now I can focus. I’m thrilled to tell you that after almost fifteen years of furtive glances and late-night rendezvous, I can finally fess up and admit I’m in love with my phone, and I don’t care who knows. We’re so perfect together. We call across continents, watch movies snuggled on the couch, deposit checks, pay bills, convert currency, take photos, find constellations in the night sky, donate to charity, pay friends for rounds of golf, investigate our family’s ancestry, hail cabs, listen to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” for the three hundred and seventeenth time, reserve dinner tables, buy pickle balls and post Facebook comments that incite normally calm people to fly into fits of rage. Last week I watched my daughter’s high school lacrosse game in real-time while “working from home” on my phone, a fact deserving mention for Father’s Day planning purposes. What’s not to love!
When I consider the minutes I spend on my phone, I clock at least a solid five hours a day on it. Between multiple email accounts, myriad social media postings, non-email inboxes, texts, alerts and reminders, I’m always holding my phone. I’ve ditched the alarm clock in my bedroom for the phone’s alarm. It’s the last thing I see at night and the first I see in the morning. I’m lucky my wife is too busy juggling between her iPad and iPhone in the bed next to me to raise much of a ruckus about my smart phone love affair.
There’ll come a day when all of this will end, either through neural brain implants or the demise of structured civilization, but until then, I celebrate my phone. To help you fall in love all over again, I share a few key moments in our relationship that highlight our endless capacity for each other’s attention. These apps only make the experience more rewarding, like a warm kiss during a soft summer – wait, wait, hold on, lemme take this and I’ll be back in a second . . .
PostSnap – take a photo and within a few seconds, a postcard is on its way to family and friends – not an InstaBook or USnapFace musing, but an actual postal-carrier-up-the-walk-to-the-mail-slot piece of mail picture postcard. I used this recently on a trip to Shanghai, and after taking a shot of the massive TV tower in that teeming city with my iPhone 6, I sent a real-life hard-copy postcard to my parents in New York, which they promptly posted on their refrigerator. PostSnap features other ways to stay in touch, like hard-copy invitations and thank you notes, but the photo postcards are the best, because I can include snarky comments to remind people of my self-indulgent yet thoughtful wit, all at the cost of a few well-spent dollars. (PostSnap is free but postcards etc. cost a couple of dollars. Pre-pay to make the experience even more seamless – and a little cheaper).
Dark Sky – this “hyper-local” weather app is not intended for shut-ins, incarcerated felons or TV binge watchers but is a must-have for anyone who enjoys spending time outside. It uses a combination of up-to-the-second weather data sources, translating all of it into a useful tool to help avoid those sudden downpours. Heading out for a hike? Check Dark Sky for any chance of rain in the next few hours. Hitting the links? Dark Sky gives you the scoop on wind and temperature. Planning a “sick day” at the coast? Give Dark Sky a wink and you’ll have the day’s UV index and temperature at your fingertips. (Dark Sky costs $3.99 and is worth every penny.)
Headspace – I’ve never been much for the idea of meditation. Raised Irish-Catholic, I’d always considered a rushed rosary bead run-through as the closest I should get to “different” thinking, but I stumbled upon this app, and I’m happy I did. I’m only a few days into my 10-day “Take Ten” introduction to meditation, and I like it. The British narrator has a voice that’s a combination of Alan Cummings and Cat Stevens, and when he says things like, “This is not about getting rid of thoughts but rather about getting comfortable with them,” and “Remember the mind is always changing,” I find myself at ease. These ten-minute sessions are slowly introducing me to what I suspect is a new way of looking at myself and the world. A word to the wise – don’t do a Headspace session on a crowded airplane because the initial breathing exercises will make you appear to be in the middle of a medical episode or reliving that Kathy Ireland dream sequence from your youth – either way, it’s best done alone. (Headspace is free but who knows what the eventual cost of mental discovery will be.)