Life, for me, is defined by lists. I spend my life constantly making lists: things I love, things I hate, to do lists (sometimes, just for the tick, I put things I’ve already done on them), goals, recipes. Love list is easy: macaroons, even though I can’t make them, the sight of the Israeli flag in Tel Aviv airport, Zadie Smith novels, Liam Neeson’s voice, the smell of bleach, films about babies (Baby’s Day Out, a classic), rose and violet creams even though they taste of pourpourri, hot water bottles and my grandmother. The hate list is harder – I was, for example, sure I hated crisps until a recent foray into the world of nachos courtesy of my friend’s culinary skills and now I’m not so sure. But I’m pretty certain I don’t like reverse parking, white bait, or having to use a hand-blender to crush nuts cos I think I’m going to take an eye out with a hazelnut.
There is one particular thing that always jumps from the love to hate list. Something that hovers between need and disgust at that need, something that sometimes hides under my pillow and I often wake up clutching like a dummy: my phone. I, like most of the 21st century first world, am the proud owner of an iPhone. It makes me feel all professional. When I first got the thing I thought it was the best purchase in the world – how did I ever live without it, I asked myself. How did I survive without a pet horse on my phone, I wondered, and apps to make me remember birthdays, give me funny-voiced talking frogs, make all my photos took so much kookier than they are, suggest what I should cook for dinner, make me look superficially knowledgable at pub quizzes and dinner parties. But the thing is with smart phones: they creep up on you (not literally). One minute you’re a happy, well-balanced individual who thinks they can cope in the world pretty well, and a couple of months later you realise you have become a wholly-technologically dependant individual who feels completely bereft if there’s not some gong, bell or whistle going off every two seconds to remind us that the world outside cares, that things are going on, stories being made, photos taken, lives lived. I sat with my brother working the other night and it was actually comical how many different noises were coming from the table – my mum thought we were recording some kind of strange mix tape.
Phones have the ability to take over our daily existence. The amount of people I’ve seen at food festivals completely absorbed by their shiny black buttons, while we’re scoffing tasters and trying to haggle on the price of meat, only to see later they were tweeting about what great fun they were having. The problem is that unless we strike a balance between living our lives and narrating them through the internet, something seriously sad will happen in society.
The internet has given us an amazing ability to record and remember. It’s great that we can use technology to remember certain events, but when social media is utilized to completely aggrandize and emphasise our actions – eating a sandwich isn’t enough, one must tweet a photo of said sandwich at said sandwich company – I can’t help but wondered what damage we’re doing to ourselves, our ability to be alone, to be without companies and brands defining us constantly, in our own pockets. I’m as guilty as the next person of allowing my own identity to become wrapped up in brand identity – sure, I like letting Pret a Manger know just how damn good the meatball wrap is… But it’s the phone I take issue with, its the phone that takes you out the moment by forcing you to translate it almost instantly online and thereby reducing your enjoyment of the present. We become mouthpieces for brands when we think we are narrating our daily occurrences – are we tweeting at brands? Or are brands tweeting through us?
So my phone’s currently on the hate list. I can’t seem to switch the bloody thing off, Twitter’s my best friend and even My Little Horse has been neglected (she hasn’t been fed a carrot in weeks) due to my obsession with Instagram… I need a serious social media detox. Luckily I’m going to India for 5 weeks in September so that ought to sort things out. But until then, a word of warning to our horribly e-dependent generation, we need to start switching the things off before we ourselves are switched off.