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Too much time on the smartphone calls for a Twitter hiatus

I was seduced by Twitter, of all things, that nakedly simple social media phenom that limits messages to pretty much what you can chisel on a tombstone.

At first I was put off by the brevity of Twitter, but now I find it a triumph of short-form literature. My only concern is that it allows too many words. As a former headline writer, I think any sentiment or catastrophe can be summed up in eight words or less.

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— Vampires suck!

— Breathing blows!

— Wish I had a friend like me :-)

That's as long as any so-called tweet needs to be.

I find Twitter to be inherently pure and superior to face-to-face encounters, which can be so disingenuous. Most of my suburban interactions now default to "So how's the family?" at which point the other dad begins to actually describe what the kids are up to, and I start to think, "I don't need every stinking moment, pal, just the broad strokes, just the headlines."

Mercifully, Twitter sticks to the broad strokes.

So what I'm saying is that I'm seriously hooked on the thing, at the expense of human interaction. I have an addictive personality to begin with — baseball, ballerinas, beer. And now Twitter.

Twitter owns me. Before Twitter owned me, emails owned me. Then, for a while, texts and Facebook owned me. I was doing the very thing I used to mock the kids for: face in the phone, a twitchy desperate person living for the next sly and witty exchange.

Most were neither sly nor witty. Many were vile, vulgar and off-putting, the intellectual equivalent of spitting. But enough were sly and witty. A sucker for words, it was just enough to take over my life.

So starting now, and for a week, I am giving up my smartphone — no Twitter, email, even voice calls — a sort of digital rehab.

Along the way, I will be tweeting about it … oh, just kidding. No tweeting. No checking my texts or bank balances. This turkey is going cold turkey.

I will keep track of things on my laptop only — hey, a guy's gotta make a living. But, for a week, my iPhone is going in a drawer with the stubby pencils and broken, one-armed paper clips.

I know what you're thinking: Just another Hollywood beefcake undone by his own lack of self-discipline.

Sure, there's that. Phones have become a ridiculously indulgent habit but not an uncommon one. When was the last time the kid in the car next to you wasn't checking his phone at the light?

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"Life moves pretty fast," a wise man (Ferris Bueller) once noted. "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

If Bueller were around today, you can bet he'd be that kid at the light — a phone fetishist.

As with all fixations, a certain family history dogs me. I remember when my dad quit smoking; he complained that he didn't miss the nicotine as much as having something to do with his hands.

I now understand this family need to fiddle. I realized last week that I spend more time touching my phone than I do my spouse. I talk to it more. I rely on it for every mundane task: reservations, cabs, drops in the Dow.

For a while now, I've suspected I was a little too dependent on it.

Mornings, I would check it first thing. While traveling, I'd tap at my pocket to make sure it's still safe there. I'd rather lose my wallet than my iPhone. I'd rather tear a tendon.

"I've never seen anyone so reliant on their phone," Posh said when I told her I was taking a digital hiatus. "Except your daughter."

See? Family history.

And now Twitter has pushed me into the deep end.

I realized it last week, while sitting on a hill, watching the weather change. Here in L.A., changing weather is a sumptuous sight, like watching a liberating army move through the canyons and vales.

And last week, a much-needed storm was finally moving across the valley, and instead of being in that moment, appreciating the clouds and the breeze finally kicking through the cottonwoods, I was fiddling with my phone.

I'd click it, look for messages. I even checked the weather, even as weather was right there in my face.

If my smartphone brewed coffee, I would marry it.

"Insane," I finally realized, for I craved to know what other people were thinking about the change in weather, and the best quick fix for that was Twitter.

Twitter, twitter, twitter ...

I've got to get away.

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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