I am your least invasive friend. I have never taken pictures of our food. I have never offered up sideshows of my niece and nephew, despite their objective cuteness. I have never stalked your Facebook page outside the confines of my home, never painted your face sepia, tagged your forehead and called you Sally. You have never been interrupted mid-conversation to watch my friend’s independent movie trailer or sat on my sofa to “catch up on TV” or “watch a movie.” It’s not because I don’t want to have you over. You’re lovely. It’s because I can’t. I am firmly of the Instagram generation and yet I have never owned a Smartphone (my 3-year old Blackberry is bright at best) or a tablet of any kind. Forever aloof, the screens in my life do not respond to my touch. My TV is so old, it won’t accept DVR into its heart. I would resort to old-fashioned means of recording if my DVD/VCR combo hadn’t stopped responding to the remote control this time last year. And yet I have teeth in my mouth and color in my hair. Incongruous, I know. Guests come away from my otherwise age-appropriate apartment thinking I don’t even own a TV. They chalk it up to the aesthetics or financials of me being a writer. Not so! I adore television. It’s just that the box in my living room is so enormous, no one sees it.
Starting this week, my life will change. At least the handheld part. The new iPhone is being released today and I am going to purchase one. Why now? Why this phone and not all other phones? Because I am what I have decided to dub a tech-jumper, even though the term sounds like the name of a script Joseph Gordon-Levitt might pass on.
Tech-jumpers are defined by a specific combination of stubbornness and sentiment, a lazy attachment to vintage. We aren’t (always) cheap — new technology isn’t exorbitant considering how much we rely on it — and we’re different from your traditional Luddite. After all, there is nothing lazy about repairing a typewriter or replacing rotary phone parts. Tech-jumpers simply like what they know until their ignorance impedes their existence. Tech-jumpers wait so long for new technology, we are no longer lagging behind on the same spectrum as our peers; we’re split off into a parallel existence. 2007, the year the first iPhone was released, is to the chronology of Smartphone ownership as the Flatiron Building is to the island of Manhattan. The road was split. If you have a Smartphone of any kind, you and I lead different lives. Not just semi-tweaked versions of the same life. For instance, I thought I was in the clear, soul-stealing-wise, after Facebook implemented its album privacy controls. It turns out I have been an unwilling participant in Instagram photos I’ve never seen, to which I have no access. Meanwhile, should I manage to pull up a picture on my current phone (I just counted and it takes five different clicks, one scroll and nine seconds to Google), it will be too small to see and you won’t know how to enlarge it. We are strangers to eachother. However, every 5-10 years, tech-jumpers go from being the least technologically savvy kids on the block (and by block I mean any block in America – my cell phone before the Blackberry sported an antenna) to having one of the more coveted pieced of technology available.
I have a lot to catch up on. For years now, my life has been simultaneously simpler and more annoyingly mapped out than yours. I have never downloaded an app to help me rent a car or track my menstrual cycle or bury a body. When I hear a good song for the first time, I try to catch one full lyric so I can Google it later. The bottoms of my bags are littered with scraps of paper that read “L → 7th, R → Greenwich” and “Exit Lorimer” from having scrawled out directions in advance. I worry not about the dangers of looking lost at night because pulling over to study paper directions means I don’t have a iPhone to steal. Now I guess I’ll have to watch my back.
Like I said, I’m not a Luddite, but any time there’s media hoopla around new technology, I think of Ned Lud. Ned was an 18th century weaver who went medieval on some weaving equipment around the time of the Industrial Revolution, becoming the mascot for generations of Luddites to come. He thought the weaving machines were going to steal his job. Some of our best pop-culture features a Ned Lud incarnate. He is the character who beats the printer with a baseball bat, the one who mouths off to the GPS lady. These cinematic protests are staged out of frustration. Good old Ned did it because he thought robots were taking over the world. For the tech-jumpers like myself, the matter of new technology falls somewhere between revolution and annoyance. We are dubious of change but reliant on it when the old devices can no longer be pandered to. It’s time for me to stop removing the battery from my frozen phone at the dinner table, blowing on said battery and reinserting it. We are zapped into the future, slingshotted from “How do you do anything on that thing?” to “Is that the new one? Can I see it?”
A new television I can hold off on (such a convenient ledge for coffee table books!), but the ease of typing on the Blackberry has finally buckled under the difficulty of doing absolute everything else. The social ramifications of all this will also take some getting used to. I am recently thawed out. I will have to play catch up within my own generation. If my jokes about Words with Friends seem dated, it’s because they are. The good news is that I have done this before and will do it again. As a lifelong tech-jumper, I know how this goes: My friends and family will be duped into thinking I’ve finally come to my senses. I haven’t. I am still me. There will always be a Flatiron building to split the road and tear us apart. But for now I’ll be able to take filtered pictures of it and pass them around on a 4-inch display while they’re eating. Wait, don’t take a bite of that yet — let me get my phone.