Grace Hwang Lynch

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Grace Hwang Lynch

Grace Hwang Lynch
Silicon Valley, California,
December 31
I'm a former television news reporter. Currently a communications consultant, freelance writer, and mother of two. I write about raising a multicultural family at HapaMama, and I'm also the News & Politics Editor at BlogHer. My work has been published in several magazines and newspapers, as well as in the anthologies "Lavaderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word" and "Mamas and Papas:On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting" by City Works Press. Follow me on Twitter: @HapaMamaGrace


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 27, 2010 1:27AM

48 Hours Without an iPhone

Rate: 19 Flag

One year ago, my husband and I bought ourselves iPhones for Christmas. I had been lobbying for months to get one. My previous cell phone was just that: a straight-up phone, with a rudimentary camera and a numeric keypad. I was constantly worried about running home to my PC to check my emails. When my clunky old flip phone began to unpredictably drop calls and turn its volume off, it was time for an upgrade.

 Fast forward one year. On Christmas Eve of 2010, our family drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California on Interstate 5, a straight wide highway, full of family SUVs tailgaiting semi-trucks. There is nothing but broad open farmland, save for the California aquaduct and the giant Harris Ranch cattle farm. We made no pretense of doing a road trip the "right way", with car games and Mad Libs and local color pitstops at Mom and Pop diners. This was a fast and furious trip to grandma's house. While the kids watched back to back Clone Wars DVDs in the backseat, I entertained myself by checking the internet on my iPhone and taking pictures with the Hipstamatic app, which makes a brand new digital photo look like a yellowed Kodak print from the 70s. When we needed to find a fast food joint for a quick lunch, there was an app for that. As we climbed the Grapevine (So Cal-speak for the mountain pass separating the Central Valley from the LA Basin) my husband used one of the numerous traffic apps to find the least congested route through the maze of Los Angeles freeways.

Then, somewhere south of downtown LA, it happened. My phone failed to start up, instead flashing either the black "Apple of death" screen or an ominous icon indicating that I should plug the phone into a computer to restore its programs. After numerous foul-mouthed attempts to reboot the thing so we could navigate our way through traffic, it was apparent the device would not revive. I quickly snatched my husband's phone back from our Angry Birds playing son, and we became reliant on that device alone.

Upon arrival at Grandma's house, I tried to restore the phone. The directions were easy enough, but after watching it try to sync itself for hours, things looked grim. I even considered braving the Christmas Eve crowds at the nearest mall to bring the dying phone to the Genius Bar at the Apple store.

Really, you can't live a day without the darn gadget? a voice inside me challenged. You-- the advocate of all things low-tech and the non-commercial celebration of the holiday-- you want to go to the mall on this supposedly holy evening to fix your broken toy? 

The demon and angel on my shoulders argued silently all night, and while waiting for the kids to fall asleep so I could stuff their stockings, I snuck off to the computer to check the website for the nearest Apple store. Standing in line with all the new iPad owners on the morning after Christmas did not sound like fun for me, either, but there was an appointment available early the morning of the 26th.

"What do you need your cell phone for?" my nearly 70-year old mother-in-law asked. "You can use our house phone."

Phone? I hardly use the thing to make calls. Just one year ago, I lived my life just fine, blissfully unaware of the pleasures of the smartphone. It is like my little computer: I check Facebook, Open Salon, as well as a dozen or so other websites I follow. The phone numbers and emails of my friends and business contacts are stored on my phone. I had intended to upload my Hisptamatic photo gallery to my blog, as if anyone was dying to see the shots of our common roadtrip. I wanted to go for a run, and was relying on the music and timed cues from the Couch to 5K app to keep me motivated. None of these activities were things that would really affect my life, and I could do almost all of them from a PC anyway. What the iPhone afforded me was the ability to distract myself without really having to make the conscious intention of doing so -- during a long car ride or during a lull in a conversation.

 Instead of visions of sugarplums that night, I awoke to a nightmare: my eight-year old son had failed to show up at an afterschool program to which he was supposed to walk by himself. Even in my subconscious state, my phone was in disrepair.  I had no way to call around to see if anyone had seen him, and I was stuck in a monorail with a dying woman (this is a nightmare after all), on my way to search for him.

Christmas morning was spent opening presents and watching my children play with their new Bionicles. I checked Facebook once or twice (on the computer in another room) and looked on enviously, as my husband played Words with Friends while sitting on the couch. Then I spent the rest of the day reading Wolf Hall, helping to cook the roast beef dinner, and watching a movie with my family.

Early the morning of the 26th, I did drive to the mall, which was relatively uncrowded save for the Apple store, which was predictably filled with folks unboxing their new iPads and laptops. "Nine times out of ten, we can fix the problem," the beanie-wearing tech support guy told me. But even the genius at the bar couldn't figure out what was wrong with my phone. My warranty had expired almost a year to the day. Luckily, they offered to honor it and I walked out with a new replacement phone.

Have I learned how dependent I am on this phone? Yes. Am I going to change my ways?  Probably not. It was an revealing experience that showed just how much I rely on a device no bigger than a deck of cards. But it's not just me, it's the way the world has changed in just the last year, and I better learn to change with it.

(c) 2010 Grace Hwang Lynch 




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Then how would I check OS?
I think I am the last person on the planet without an iPhone. I cannot hold out much longer. I love your writing, Grace. I could check for new posts more often if I had one too...~r
I got my iPhone at the end of October and am already in the same state you describe of relying on it for multiple things. glad to hear Apple helped you out with a new phone.
Oh, Grace, I could have written this. My husband and I once had a discussion about how much simpler the lives of the Amish are. They don't have the worries that the rest of us do. Maybe we should discard our traditional American lives and become Amish. Then it hit me: I'd have to give up my iPhone in order to be Amish since they shun all modern technology. That was the deal-breaker for me. No way. I'd sooner give up a kidney. Now I joke that my iPhone is the only thing keeping me from becoming Amish. (Glad to hear that Apple replaced yours!)
Your post reminded me of reading this last month: on people's dependence on "smart" phones. I don't have one, and I'll probably never get one, because it's mainly a vehicle for selling me things I don't really need.
I snickered when I read this, but then I'd probably feel the same way if my MacBook rolled over and died. I can see a movie built around this premise. End of the world. No electricity. No malls. No cars. No restaurants. Everyone has to learn to survive, hunting, fishing, gathering nuts and berries. And there the "heroine" is, sitting, weeping, hysterically jabbing at her electric thingy. Played by Kate Hudson? A comedy, sort of.
Joan, you're not the last person without an iPhone - we are i-less in this house, a fact that is torture to my daughter. Things may change in 2011. Grace, I'm glad your sanity and iPhone were restored - this was a fun read!
I bought the iPhone when they first came out. I still have one now, but I'm moving on from it. It took me a couple of years to discover that Apple and AT&T don't allow you to do certain things with your phone (like block calls from telemarketers that don't stop calling you). It was when I discovered that missing function that I started to realize how many things I could not do from behind Apple's walled garden.

Since then, I moved on to an Android phone that allows me to do a lot of things the iPhone wouldn't let me do. The funny thing is, the iPhone made the Android phone possible, so I have it to thank for my new phone. But I'm leaving Apple and AT&T forever. It was great while it was the trendsetter, but after awhile, it forgot it needed to be at the front of the pack, not suffice to rest on its laurels of the past.
I have just a plain cellphone. Your post made me sad. I realize that it is easy to become dependent on such toys, However, the fact that your husband was playing on his phone on Christmas Day rather than watching of playing with the children was very depressing. I check my email etc often enough with my laptop. A smartphone of any kind is clearly addicting and this post reassures me I should stay away from one.
I am in your shoes. It's a lousy phone (keep dropping calls). Otherwise, it's simply magic.
This was a great piece Grace.. YEAH FOR THE EP..
rated with hugs
I curse the cell phone every day yet I can't imagine life without it now. I have a Storm, which is the Verizon version of the touch screen and although my screen is cracked in dozens of places (I drop my phone a lot!) I am waiting to see if Verizon will actually come out with the iphone so I can get it. I force myself to leave my phone inside if I'm out playing with the kids or dog--it's hard but so worth it. You capture the ambivalence about technology perfectly!
I still have a Blackberry; don't know why I'm holding out, because I really do covet an iPhone. But I do understand how you felt. If I just leave the darned thing at home by mistake, I feel as if I"m walking around in my underwear!

I do not have an Iphone. When they invent one that does laundry, I will consider it. R
Oh yeah, and congrats on the EP.
Thank you all for stopping by! The phenomenon is not just "i" or "Apple" related, but the way all smartphones have changed the way many people -- indeed, our economy -- works.

Yes, these electonic gadgets are definitely a vehicle to get people to buy more stuff (hey, I can keep all my coupons on the phone instead of in my purse), and they do make it easy for us to not be present to those we love, but I have to admit, social media and the ease of connecting to it through a phone has also allowed me to get in touch with many long-lost friends and coordinate things with new ones.
A nicely written piece, really worth the read. Having been without a working cell phone for over a month now, I find your commentary stimulating. For the purposes outlined by a nightmare, there would appear to be nothing better currently available on the market.
However, in our rush to keep ahead, and always have the next newest apparatus, we are doing our planet a disservice. ten years off, will it be the same machine? And how many of these things are we provoking the mass marketer into providing?
I shudder to think where we are headed.
I admit to being a Luddite who keeps my cell phone off more often than on--but I still panic if I find I've left the thing at home! Sometimes it's good to take a break from our gadgets--thanks for the report!
This talks me into NOT getting a smart phone. I have a laptop and a cellphone. That chains me to the internet and other people enough.

No facebook. No smart phone. I feel liberated! rated.
amusing anecdote & you have my full sympathy. dont feel guilty. the realtime traffic app on the iphone or other smartphone itself is revolutionary & has major implications for future city dynamics, worldwide. so, embrace the new digital overlords .. all your bases are belong to us =)
I couldve written this. It's 11 pm eastern, I'm in bed, reading and responding to your post. One thing is for sure: I hardly ever watch tv anymore. Ive always been a voracious reader but the iPhone has made it so much more pronounced. If I'm not reading my favorite websites, I'm reading emails or doing research. Or reading any of the dozens of books I've downloaded from amazon. I'm more patient while waiting in lines, too. I love being able to google something on the fly, like while watching tv. I love being able to check reviews for a restaurant from right outside the doors while "deciding" whether to eat there or not. Not to mention my Netflix streaming from it (which is synced up with my netflix online account. How awesome is that?!) And hulu. And national film board of Canada. I watch the most amazing films while laying quietly in bed. Oh! And my music too.

Nope. I would be miserable without the thing now. It's my portable mini computer and entertainment console.

Sometimes I even make calls on it.

The disposable nature of our tech equipment is frightening. My printer is over 15 years old and going strong, but will soon be obsolete b/c it lacks a USB port.

I have to say Apple bought themselves a loyal customer by replacing my broken phone. As they say, once you go Mac...
I've so far resisted the lure of the iphone (or any advanced cell phone at all)...but then I stay pretty close to home, where I'm attached to the internet all day, so I can't stay above the fray. It's reading posts like this that make me fearful to taking that giant leap.
There are some great photo apps out there now, whole editing suites that let you do everything. Never had any trouble with my iPhone but there's a murmur in the video software, it comes and goes, and it seems to lose a little data over time. I haven't checked on the fanboy sites to see if this is a familiar problem. And no, I would never get rid of it!
I sympathize fully. I went from hating cellphones to being dependent on my iphone and checking email and fbook obsessively. Lately, I have been a bit worried about the tumour risk so I've stopped using it as an alarm clock (I use my ipad instead). The iPhone has one of the worst SARs out there. The SAR (specific absorption rate) is the measure of how much the radiation from the phone is absorbed in your body.