The Sunday Edition

Confessions of a smartphone addict - Michael's essay

"I had pooh-poohed those pitiable creatures welded to their phones, but now I was experiencing an empty sense of loss which I never expected. Was it conceivable that I had become as addicted to my phone as they were to theirs?"
'Was it conceivable that I had become as addicted to my phone as they were to theirs?' writes Michael Enright (Mac Cameron/CBC)
Listen3:39

There's an older woman in my city who is having an argument with a friend over false eyelashes; she thinks they are an abomination. "They just look awful," she says.

A young girl has finally decided to break up with her boyfriend because he violated his parole and has been re-arrested.

I don't know either of these women, but I know these details because I overheard them on their phones.

All the forensics tell the same story — we are hopelessly, helplessly addicted to our phones. Some can not only not leave home without them, they take them everywhere, including public washrooms.

Some of us have tried the Digital Sabbath, turning off our phones and other screens from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

We start to get twitchy around noon on Saturday. It is part of that modern scourge of: I Can't Afford to Miss Anything.

Breaking news, news alerts. Special bulletins, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, we need it all, and we need it now.

One of the saddest of urban sights is a parent  holding a small child's hand while paying more attention to the phone then the toddler. Which is why I have always been suspicious of those surveys suggesting we Canadians really want to protect our privacy rights — if there are such things.

Well, the other week I lost my cell phone. It fell out of my pocket when my scooter hit a deep pothole, I think.

 
Michael Enright happy to be reunited with his phone. (Mac Cameron/CBC)

I lose things all the time. I once lost my car. 

Actually, I didn't lose it. I lent it to a friend while I was out of the country and he lost it. Never saw it again.

I've lost enough umbrellas to supply a Scottish village for weeks. 

I've lost sunglasses, wallets, hats, raincoats and untold numbers of gloves. I lost an 18,000 word manuscript on the subway, but thank God it was returned.

But I had an odd reaction to losing my phone. It wasn't quite panic but I regarded the loss as something extremely serious.

I had pooh-poohed those pitiable creatures welded to their phones, but now I was experiencing an empty sense of loss which I never expected.

Was it conceivable that I had become as addicted to my phone as they were to theirs? What if my children are trying to contact me? What if my boss needed me? What if Donald Trump uncharacteristically said something outrageous?

Then from email heaven came a note in the form of a man named Himanshu Singh. He had found my phone lying on the road where it popped out of my pocket.

Somehow he managed to get it working and found my email address. We talked on the phone. I went to his house to pick up the phone. He had even charged it.

In addition to reaffirming my faith in humankind, the return of the phone made me a little more sympathetic toward phone addicts.

I could easily be one of you.

Click 'listen' above to hear Michael's essay.