Angry Robot

InRealLife or, I Smashed my Phone

While attempting a classic middle-aged middle-class white person panic tale about how the Internet and smartphones are killing our kids’ brains, the documentary InRealLife manages to sprawl in every direction, like the Internet, without the ability to focus on anything, like our kids’ brains. Almost by accident, it includes some decent sound bites from some Internet luminaries, grazing interesting topics like privacy, advertising, etc. Hey, I guess if you fire off in every direction, you may very well hit something good.

In the bitterest of ironies, while leaving the TIFF screening of this film, I grazed a handrail with just enough force to destroy my pocketed iPhone. So I have been living the past couple days as this film would prefer, as a complete neanderthal. And it has been illuminating.

First off, WiFi becomes as water in a desert. This is apparently what it’s like at tech conferences when the cell towers get saturated and nobody can get on 3G. Thankfully, TIFF had free WiFi networks set up at the Lightbox and at Scotiabank, where it seemed the bulk of the screenings were.

But I think I use my phone for a lot more than that. I was going to walk home, but realized I was unwilling to walk for an hour without any music or podcasts to listen to. So I went to check when the next streetcar would be – d’oh! You realize how dependent you are on these things and no, InRealLife, it’s not all about porn and Facebook updates. I want to research something I saw in a film, make a note of a director. Take a picture! Coordinate dinner with my wife. Basically live my life in the way I normally do – the iPhone has a hand in almost everything.

I will say that without question I managed to be more present than I normally am. I observed things, eavesdropped. It probably made me more relaxed. But in no way would I suggest giving up your smart or even dumbphone. The monkey mind will look for distractions no matter what, and getting it to chill is about mental discipline and not about banning hardware. A smartphone diet or fast, though, like what I accidentally did, might show the kind of discipline you’re gonna need.