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Creative Connections: Dear Phone

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Creative Connections: Dear Phone

***This column originally appeared in the 35th Anniversary Issue of Animation Magazine (June-July ’22, No. 321)***

I remember when we were new and I first held your polished humming weight in my hand. You were always much smarter than me but, still, I thought it could work. You seemed to get me. You knew what I needed before I did. You had maps and secret passwords. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You had a flashlight.

You appeared to be a very good deal — maybe too good — and I was gobsmacked. So I took you home. I carried you with me everywhere. If I left you behind, I felt anxious and forlorn. We had a connection. Some called it 5G but I knew it was love.

I have always been a trusting person — some would say naive — so it took me longer than it should have to see what you were up to. And it was not good, not good at all. All those years I thought you were in my pocket I see now that I was in your pocket.

You kept track of me with so many satellites that I thought were stars. Every time I swiped, you swiped me back.

While I went innocently about my day, you were analyzing my most intimate texts and emails. You were Sigmund Freud and I was living 24/7 on your couch. No, it was worse than that. You were Hannibal Lecter and I was for dinner!

Day after day you were probing my wee (and not-so-wee) vulnerabilities and pecadillos. One day I brought a pair of pants and the next day you invited me to like Weight Watchers. One night I dreamt I was flying and in the morning I woke up to an ad for life insurance. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Really, how could you?

Yes, I may have given you a few cookies but I never invited you to eat my lunch. And now? Now, I am a junkie and you are my junk.  Before I met you, I would go see Almodóvar films at the Film Forum. Now, I watch short videos of bear cubs eating ice cream in bibs. I watch plastic canoes being pressed out by hulking machines. And I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve seen that sweet baby orangutan riding gingerly on the neck of the kindly and maternal Canadian goose.

But, of course, you already know how many times I watched it. You know that and everything else about me. And you have proven that I am above, well, nothing. Happy? You are the championship wrestler Quantity tossing my poor old friend Quality out of the ring and then hitting him repeatedly on the head with a folding metal chair. You are the vapid, infinite smörgåsbord for whom my salad tongs are forever outstretched. You are an embarrassment of niches.

‘We had a good connection. Some called it 5G but I knew it was love. I’ve always been a trusting person — somewould say naive — so it took me longer than it should have to see what you were up to.’

When I try to write a letter with ink on paper, I feel like I’m operating a butter churn, and so I stop. And I weep. You did this to me. You. Uncle. Uncle. Uncle.

I know now that I was a fool to ever let you scan my face. But before I say goodbye, I have one thing to tell you and I want you to listen closely (although I know that you are forever and unapologetically listening closely.)

I am more than my algorithm.  I am from a long and proud tradition of living beings who have as our hallmarks ambiguity, pathos, inconsistency and dire cravings for chocolate. Things you will never know! Things that are beyond the reach of your tiresome calculations! We humans may be slow but we are also sublime, unpredictable and, unlike you, we can eat a taco! We can kiss! You may beat us at chess but you will never beat us at hyperbole, irony or sideways glances! Such pleasures are reserved for us, the dumb ones with the beating hearts!

Your cute silicone case may feel like skin but I know now you are a lifeless little brick.

Sorry. I lost myself. I was always taught that endings should be handled just as graciously as beginnings. So, in closing, I will just say thank you.

Thank you for taking so many lovely photos of my wife and baby girl. Thank you for letting me shop for groceries in the tub. Thank you for the one million songs even though I only listen to about ten. Thank you for finding yourself when I lost you last summer. Thank you for keeping everything you know about me tucked away safely in something as benign as a cloud.

We had some good moments but it’s over now. Over. Your data needs his space. So, I am placing you here on the sand by the sea where the biologists say that life began. I will let the tide lick your insides. I will ask the salt water to remind you of what you are not. May the barnacles seize your screen. May the seaweed disable your camera and mic.

Soon you will wish you were a mollusk. That is, if you are capable of wishing. But please don’t mate with anything. We already have enough problems as it is.

And, finally, dear phone, as you power down, please know this: Without you I am not nothing!

Josh Selig is creator of Wonder Pets!, P. King Duckling, The Dog & Pony Show, 3rd & Bird and Small Potatoes and the President of China Bridge Content. He lives in New York City with his wife, daughter and their two dogs.

 

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