Talk of the Walk - Fall 2010

I own an iPhone. And I’m addicted. There–I said it. I should point out that even thought I’m married to a self-taught technological wizard and my 3-year-old is scarily able to navigate our “all-in-one” remote, I am not known for my technological prowess. But man, this iPhone thing has me hooked. I have been known to crawl up the stairs at night, utterly exhausted from a day of work and mommyhood, and slip into bed only to realize that I left that darn phone in the kitchen. I will then crawl right back down the stairs to retrieve that precious little box. After all, I might get an e-mail. Or a text from my friend in Arizona. Or a Facebook update from that girl in high school I haven’t spoken to in 15 years.

I have “apps” for everything. The “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” application helped me get through my second pregnancy by counting down the days to my due date and allowing me to lurk on chat boards of other expectant moms. It was nearly as good as a reality TV show. Using the handy Accuweather app, I can tell my husband whether or not we need to haul in the outdoor plants to protect them from frost. I can read The New York Times, check stocks, even use the built-in GPS system when I’m lost in Columbus somewhere. I’ve also, admittedly, added puzzle apps for my son to use when my husband and I desperately want to have a quiet meal in a restaurant, although I keep a constant eye on the kid for fear he’ll send an e-mail full of gibberish to President Dale Knobel or one of our readers. (And if you ever do get an e-mail from me that’s full of gibberish, it probably isn’t a virus. More likely, the nuggets and fries were running late.)

The campus theme for the 2010-11 academic year is “Technology and Community,” and so far, the Spectrum Series planning committee has pulled together speakers and events that are making us all pay attention to how we use and abuse technology. (I’ll admit that handing my son an iPhone during dinner and needing the phone next to me while I sleep are both behaviors that border on abusive.) Steven Berlin Johnson-who wrote about technology, science and personal experience-showed up for Denison’s Opening Convocation in September to give a talk called “The Networked Idea.” Rebecca Skloot was here in October to chat about her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which details the life of a woman who unwittingly advanced science with her cells, known throughout the world as HeLa cells. And Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, will be coming to campus in December to talk about free access to knowledge.

It all got me thinking that my little addiction probably isn’t so little, and that I’m likely training my son to follow in my footsteps. It’s not that I’m against technology, obviously (that would mean that I’d have to divorce my computer-savvy husband and give up my precious iPhone and laptop), but I do think anyone who’s checking e-mail at 3:00 a.m. may have a teensy-weensy problem, and I’m not sure I need to pass that on to the next generation.

Still, I need to take this detox in baby steps, so here’s my pledge: during the first week of the spring semester, I will give up my iPhone and document the experience on the Denison Magazine blog. One of two things will happen: either I’ll be successful, the self-controlled victor over technological indulgence, or you’ll find me crouched in my office, shaking and crying, a tremulous weakling overwhelmed by app-lust. In the case of the latter, you can bet I’ll be blogging from the keypad on my phone.

Published November 2010