The inspiration for this blog happened a few nights ago when I was laying down in bed and starting to drift off to sleep. Something unusual happened – I woke up with urgency and my eyes popped open, my brain wanted to look at my phone. Now, I never thought of myself as a phone addict but it was clear to me in this moment that maybe, I needed to reevaluate my relationship with my phone. For the record, I refrained from looking at my phone and went back to sleep.
Over the next couple days, I thought about my phone, how I used it, what I used it for, where I take it, how I never leave home without it, and most of all how it lives by my side a good 95% of the time. Analyzing the relationship that I have with my phone made me feel like a cyborg or cybernetic organism, because I am part organic and almost part machine because I do rely so much on my phone. I feel a definite fear when I have gone somewhere without it. My machine of choice, my phone, seems to be almost part of me now because I cannot imagine life without it. I felt this related to Donna Haraway’s 1985 essay, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, so I reread parts of it thinking about my situation and many things stood out. In this essay, Haraway states, “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction.” Of course, this is me and not only does this apply to my relationship with my phone, but my computer, car, and television. Haraway also states that, “Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.” I found this quote, especially the last sentence to be quite compelling as it spoke a truth I had never thought of before. To me, this meant that I am a machine dependent organism with a blurred line to where I begin and my machine dependency ends. We are one in the same.
Through this self-reflective journey, I was also inspired by an art collaboration between futurists Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos and Rameet Chawla, two digital philosophers brought together to create art for Twyla. Esmeralda uses art to make profound statements on what it is like living in a technological omnipresent world. Rameet is an entrepreneur and applications developer who designs award winning apps and believes his creations could be considered art.
Here is where I was able to break it all down – I remembered that I break free from my machines at least once a year for an extended time. The only time I am without my phone is during my annual camping trips with my closest friends. Every year, we go to the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forrest in California and camp off grid with no electricity or running water. There is no cell reception in this very remote part of the forest so we all turn off our phones and we stay there anywhere from five to seven days. The build-up for my device free vacation is also letting my family and some friends know that I will be unable to answer them if they text, call, or email me. This is my paradise, I am my happiest here just taking in the beautiful scenery and spending quality time with my very best friends. It is here that I do not want my phone anywhere near me and at the end of the trip, I find myself dreading having to look at it and deal with all of the texts, calls, and emails. It is as if I do not want my separation from my machines to end because I feel truly at peace without them. However, if I want to be a functioning member of society I need them. Finding the bittersweet balance of appreciating/being grateful for my machines and the stressful control they seem to have over my life is the unfounded space.