Growing up without the shiny consoles of wealthier kids, I was easily swayed by the siren song of a smart phone. But what I had given up was far costlier.
By Troy Garnaut
My most painful breakup was when I left books behind for technology.
Like with any significant break up, the memories of what I had keep coming back. I recently watched some episodes of Black Mirror, a good show to be sure, but I didn’t feel awe at the concepts that had other people buzzing. It dawned on me I’d had better than this in my life even way back when I was a kid, on hand and on demand, every time I picked up an anthology of science fiction short stories. What I read in those would make any show on any sized screen seem like something we watch just to pass the time.
Growing up, I was poor. Not the bottom of the bottom class, but a rung on the ladder not far from the ground. Single mother, three kids, welfare, government housing. A knock on our door was sometimes a sympathetic face with a box of basic foodstuffs. Other times we never answered, were hushed quiet until the knocking went away. Later I learned the people on the other side of that door we didn’t open were after money owed. Bills were unpaid and collectors would come to collect.
So no shiny consoles or computers for me in those days. None of the newest toys or playthings. But what I did have were books and for the books I didn’t have I had a local library card: my most prized possession. In high school when kids were skipping class to do cool kid things, I’d skip to visit the library and spend time with my true love. Lazy afternoons breaking the rules for me were spent up a tree or in a field with a book in my hand, library always in view.
Years went by and adult life meant doing adult things, but I always made time for what meant most to me. If I missed a day without feeling paper between my fingers I missed it like we miss touching a cherished lover. I always smiled my warmest of smiles when I could be alone with written words again.
With that same passage of years came truly astounding advances in technology and the commonality of its usage. Before the world knew it, we couldn’t live without a glowing device and internet access. Before I knew it too, months went by without me picking up a book. As of this year, it’s been two whole years.
I had moved on. We’d drifted apart, books and I. The siren song of a new fling had lured me away from what was always there for me. My books were now all boxed. The holder of my attention was now a sleek new phone or a smart TV. They promised me the world and I believed easily. I may have wanted too much the shiny things I never had, now that money held me high above those bottom rungs I came from.
It’s a busy life, this adult one. The one with technology taking all our attention. I tried to read novels on a screen and on-the-go but it never felt the same. I was either distracted by the ding of a million social media notifications or I’d find myself rubbing two fingers together at the end of each glowing page, perhaps in anticipation of feeling paper that was no longer there to turn.
I still feel the pain of my breakup with each flashy film I catch and each slick series on Netflix. There’s nothing exciting there for me, no truly new worlds or awe-inspiring tales. I’d had all that and more from way back when I was kid, with the books that were always there for me.
Do we have to wait until we’re old to find time for one of the best things in our lives again? I hope not, even though I still can’t seem to ever put my phone down. For now it looks like I’m stuck with this new mistress, and I can tell you it’s a loveless relationship.