Just two short months ago, my husband Matt and I decided to finally enter the 21st century and buy smartphones.
We took our first trip with our new iPhone SEs shortly thereafter when we sailed on the Delta for six days. We had five teenagers on our boat, which meant we had five experts to ease us into this century’s phone technology. By the end of the trip, I was capable of graceful swipes and intense devotion to the many amusements of my SE.
I used to scoff at my kids for sleeping with their phones, but now I understand.
Though I do not wish to trivialize parenthood by comparing my SE to a child, the truth is that in some ways becoming the owner of a new iPhone is a little like becoming a new mother.
My phone is my first concern in the morning and the last thing I check at night. I make sure it gets all of the electricity it needs to stay active throughout the day. I take it with me wherever I go and make sure that it is always in a safe place. I keep it away from dangerous bodies of water.
I am striving to learn all of its astonishing abilities, and when I discover something that my phone can do I inform everyone within earshot. It is as though the achievements of my iPhone are my achievements, too.
But it is the possibilities of my iPhone camera when combined with social media that has most captivated me.
Recently, I have been whiling away the hours by developing a Facebook series titled “Li’l Hill,” which revolves around the adventures of a 6-inch-tall Hillary Clinton doll I received for my birthday.
In the two weeks I have owned Li’l Hill, I have posted pictures of her eating breakfast, kayaking, visiting the Philippines, practicing her backstroke, and off-roading, to name just a few of her many activities.
I admit I have been spending a possibly unhealthy amount of time dreaming up new situations for Li’l Hill. In fact, when my son Everett goes places with me now, he asks if Li’l Hill is coming along, kind of like an older sibling who has tired of the new baby.
Perhaps this is because on a recent shopping trip for school clothes, I asked Gilbert, a salesperson at H&M in Modesto, to pose with Li’l Hillary. Gilbert was working in the dressing room while Everett was trying on shirts, and because Gilbert is a nice kid, he agreed to hold up Li’l Hillary as I snapped a picture of her modeling a pair of sunglasses. I suspect this story will come up years from now, when Everett is recalling his childhood while lying on some sympathetic psychologist’s couch.
Despite the harm I may be causing my children, I am having fun with Li’l Hill, all of it possible because I now own an iPhone SE.
For years, I posted messages maybe two or three times every 12 months on Facebook. Now, I post at least that many times each day, and I check my phone five or six times every hour just to see if I have new Facebook “Likes” or “Comments.”
My iPhone SE has, I fear, caused me to become a bit obsessed with my social media platform because my phone is always there, at my fingertips, when I find myself with nothing much to do. A few days ago a friend commented, in response to a slightly weird Li’l Hill photo, that I had officially lost my mind. Others have asked, in that strained casual tone people sometimes use when speaking to the unhinged, when my summer vacation is going to be over, as though a need for purposeful activity is really at the heart of my postings.
I will soon know if my newfound preoccupation with social media is a result of too much free time or if, in fact, I have permanently succumbed to the charms of my SE. Instruction at UCM began this week. On the first day of class, I always ask my students to stay off their cellphones for the few hours they see me every week.
I’ve always led by example, but I’m not sure it will be so easy this year. Perhaps it will be best to leave Li’l Hill at home.
Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.