A True Story

Here is a true story:

I was not happy, but I wanted to be happy.

People with iPhones seemed happy, so I went and bought an iPhone.

It worked.

The end.

Here is a longer version of the story, but you could probably just stick with the short version.

It was the summer and I was not happy. I had not been happy for a long time. There comes a point when you are four years into your existential crisis when you have to accept that it is not really a crisis so much as it is just your life. Your life is a crisis.

When you feel like you have tried everything, even the dumb ideas you dismissed outright start to sound appealing. In my case, it was giving into the thing I hated: technology fetishization, or well, the iPhone.

I recognize now that at the time I was a queen bee. I was the trendsetter and I shaped my little social circle of coworkers to my whims without even realizing it. That meant if I talked about how smartphones were dumb or the iPad was dumb, or how twitter and social media was dumb, those became the rules of our order.

And after a while this curmudgeon role, the twenty-five year old Andy Rooney, stopped being what I really felt and instead like a guise I had to maintain to protect the status quo. If only I had realized that if I had just said something sooner, everything would have changed; that my word was law; that there was nothing to be embarrassed by.

So there I am, nowhere left to turn and like the dying man reaches out to religion, I reach out for that which I most loathed: the iPhone.

I hated the cultists who would only talk about how amazing Apple products are, partially because I had bad experiences with Apple computers (I am still not really a fan) and partially because I worked with a few who were insufferable.

And I hated the tech news sites and gadget blogs that only fetishize the new, next smartphone or tablet or laptop you need to buy; because, seemingly, as soon as something has been on the market more than 24 hours it is garbage and there is a better one coming in three months that we all need to get excited over.

The iPhone was where those two circles overlapped, sitting in the middle of a venn diagram of hatred it represented that which I loathed.

But I had been sad and lonely and unhappy for a long time, years at this point, and I knew that I had to do something drastic. So I went to the Apple store at the mall and put in my order. About a week later they called and told me my iPhone was in, so I went back to the store. Once there the clerk treated me with such a look of disgust on his face, had it been any other situation I would have thrown the box at his face and left but I took it because he was the only thing standing in the way of me and my iPhone.

It only took about five minutes of using it at home before I was totally in love. I still am. It was an iPhone 4, with the beautiful retina screen, and a constant connection to the internet. I had owned Blackberries before but never sprung for the data plan, now it was required and meant I was never alone in public again. People talk about how we resemble zombies, always looking at our screens while out in the world, but I regret nothing. If this is a plague, I will gladly be patient zero.

Quickly I realized that reading people's Twitter accounts, which I had always done by going to people's twitter profiles, was basically impossible and that I would have to make an account. Since I had already soldout on my principles (at least, I phrased it so dramatically at the time) I might as well just go crazy, so I signed up. And once I had the outlet, I had no choice but to use it. Nineteen-thousand tweets later I am a much happier person, because using Twitter regularly let me make friends and reconnect with older ones. Then I found out about the Jonathan Coulton cruise on twitter when famous people I tweeted about going on it, which led to signing up for the second cruise, and the rest is history.

I recognize this probably sounds like common sense: technology allows us to connect, and social media is a way to meet people you have similar interests with and make friends. You are not wrong, but it took me far too long to realize it and allow myself to participate.

Moreover my world did not collapse. Any embarrassment I felt amongst my coworkers was self-imposed. The rules of our group changed and life went on. A year later I bought an iPad and though I had the same fear of embarrassment I lived through that too.

Of course I know that the real lesson has nothing to do with iPhone ownership (which is great from a privilege standpoint, in that I feel a little less guilty writing this), but that I was not letting myself do something that I knew I wanted because I was worried about expectations on myself. And once I let go of those worries things improved immediately. And once things improved, it gave me the freedom to do it again and again until now I am in a much better place in my life. I still deal with that fear of expectations from time to time. But the more times I confront it the easier it is to overcome.

Or like I said before: I bought an iPhone and it made me happy. The end.