Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

New Phone Who Dis?, or, The Apple Divorce?

Sorrows Altar, Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio. From Wikimedia Commons

I spent two days without a phone, and I have to say it was everything I hoped it could be.

There's a freedom in not being tethered to one's phone, and it breeds a jaunty attitude toward time and space and directions. I took my daughter and a friend on a birthday expedition to a shrine an hour out in the countryside, equipped as the Neanderthals with only printed-off directions. Getting there wasn't difficult. The shrine is invested in getting pilgrims from the highway to the parking lot, so the signage is clear and easy to spot. We spent a hour in the cool environs of this minor basilica improbably set in a small town in the midst of Ohio fields. The girls explored the lower church with its tributes of crutches and braces, and costumes for the famed statue of Our Lady, while I sat in blissful uninterrupted silence in the upper church. At the Sorrows altar, I prayed for everyone I know who's suffering, and for those I don't know are suffering, and I gazed at the massive windows, all red and blue glowing in dense patterns, without expecting my pocket to buzz with a text or a missed call.

And we got lost finding our way out of town. Twice we went wrong directions and had to turn and retrace our route to the Shrine. On the third try, we found our way back to the highway. I haven't been lost driving in a long time, thanks to Maps and directions and a computerized Irish voice telling me to go past this light, then turn right. But you have to rely on your common sense when your phone dies.

 With no provocation, the screen of my five-year-old iPhone 8 stopped working Wednesday night. I was a bit miffed, I must say -- I had not recently dropped the thing, my kids are all too old to plunge it in the toilet (as happened to a previous iteration), and though it had stopped holding much charge and my screen protector was flaking off little splinters of glass, there was nothing to indicate that it was about to give up the ghost. Darwin took it to be inspected by geniuses while I went on pilgrimage, and the geniuses were baffled and quoted a higher price to fix the screen than it cost to replace it with a comparable model. Common sense dictated the latter course, particularly as the old phone held less and less charge. 

Alas, it turns out that I don't use a phone as intended, which is charging it nightly so it can update, and backing it up regularly. Darwin and I have a shared Apple ID, which predates either of our personal email addresses. From that ID I can back up some shared functions (though not necessarily under my own name or with my own data), but some contacts and messages on my old phone, some dating back years, seem to be lost in the ether. "Is it time, after all these years," Darwin mourned, "for us to get an Apple divorce?"

As Quintin Tarantino said in Pulp Fiction, I don't want to get f*cking divorced. I don't want another account. I don't want to create another password. It's miserable enough trying to remember the passwords I already have as I reinstall apps on my new phone. On the other hand, I went to text someone I really need get in touch with, only to find that my entire message history, and indeed the contact itself, is gone. I synced my phone with iCloud and recovered... five messages from December 2021. Photos, it seems, do sync. I am not a notable photo historian, but it's nice to know that all my boys' videos of jumping off the couch and karate-chopping Lego creations are still extant, taking up all our data. 

Not only do I not want to get divorced, I don't even want to be on my phone that much. A year or so ago, I deleted the one social media app I use, though I still checked it through the internet browser (with a time limit). On my new phone, I haven't opened a browser tab for it. What do you know -- after looking at my email and playing my daily Wordle and checking the weather, there's not much reason for me to be clicking around. I want to click around. I want to fill five or ten or 30 minutes with dopamine hits. But now, there's no dopamine source. Let's keep it that way.

Will I have to establish my own Apple ID? I guess there are good reasons to do so. It won't bring back my lost messages, though. Some of them I can access through the messenger app on my computer, though some, like the 14-person family chat, seem to be lost to the mists of time. I don't know that anything of value is gone -- only the time I spent messaging, perhaps. 

I recently read something I'd written 19 years ago, and felt the severe and mortifying lash of the Total Perspective Vortex. Frankly, if some digital catastrophe destroyed everything I'd ever written before the age of 30, maybe 35, I'd count myself fortunate. Lord have mercy on us, and may we learn humility a gentler way than reading our own past writing. But may it be there when we want to read it.

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