Hopelessly in love

Three more days. Three.

Apple is holding a special event on October 4 to talk about their next iPhone. I could not be more excited if I tried. I’ve bought every single iPhone since the first one in 2007. Unboxing the latest and greatest iPhone has become a yearly summer ritual. This year, Apple did not release an iPhone in June or July, as they have traditionally. This has only compounded my excitement. I’ve had the same phone for fifteen months. Fifteen months! That’s 1.25 years. That’s the longest period I’ve ever owned a single phone.

Naturally, I’ve been counting down the hours to Tuesday at 1 PM ET. It’s a really big day for me. Seriously. If you don’t know me (or someone like me) personally, you just can’t understand.

So imagine my reaction when I read this article today by Martin Lindstrom for the New York Times

With Apple widely expected to release its iPhone 5 on Tuesday, Apple addicts across the world are getting ready for their latest fix.

But should we really characterize the intense consumer devotion to the iPhone as an addiction?

Hey! I resent the notion that I am an “addict” of anything. How dare you pretend to know who I am, what my problems are?

A recent experiment that I carried out using neuroimaging technology suggests that drug-related terms like “addiction” and “fix” aren’t as scientifically accurate as a word we use to describe our most cherished personal relationships. That word is “love.”

Oh, well now you’ve piqued my interest. Please go on.

A few years back, I conducted an experiment to examine the similarities between some the world’s strongest brands and the world’s greatest religions. […] We found that the brain activity was uncannily similar when viewing both types of imagery.

Okay, now I’m insulted again. I mean for Christ’s sake—I am a proud agnostic, damn it! How dare you compare my healthy emotional investment in personal electronics to the delusions of a religious zealot! For shame, sir. For shame. Besides, staring at a few brain waves doesn’t seem like the most rigorous of scientific exercises. You’re probably one of those pretend “scientists” who extrapolates significance from the most insignificant of data. Like climate scientists, or particle physicists.

This past summer, I gathered a group of 20 babies between the ages of 14 and 20 months. I handed each one a BlackBerry. No sooner had the babies grasped the phones than they swiped their little fingers across the screens as if they were iPhones, seemingly expecting the screens to come to life. It appears that a whole new generation is being primed to navigate the world of electronics in a ritualized, Apple-approved way.

I see what you’re trying to do here. Very cute, but it won’t work.

Because, you see, even though your focus group was 20 babies large, the implication you make—that Apple is indoctrinating our youth—is based on anecdotal evidence. A few babies fingering their BlackBerrys. Ha! That’s bad science! I shouldn’t even bother reading the rest of this ridiculous article, because you clearly have a PhD in bullshit.

Oh what the hell. I’ll continue reading. You amuse me.

Friends who have accidentally left home without their iPhones tell me they feel stressed-out, cut off and somehow un-whole. That sounds a lot like separation anxiety to me.

Okay, okay! I admit it. This describes me to a T, as any of my friends could tell you. But so what? “Separation anxiety”? Please. You can’t just psychologically evaluate me over the Internet! What do you know about me?

Phantom vibration syndrome is the term I use to describe our habit of scrambling for a cellphone we feel rippling in our pocket, only to find out we are mistaken. Similar to pressing an elevator button repeatedly in the belief that the elevator will descend sooner, we check our phones for e-mails and texts countless times a day, almost as if we can will others to text, call, e-mail or Skype us.

Phantom vibration syndrome. That’s actually pretty brilliant. I like that a lot. I’m going to start using that term. But that doesn’t mean I disagree any less with your main point. I am not an addict. I have the ability to separate myself from my phone… every once in a while… if it’s necessary. I simply choose not to.

So are our smartphones addictive, medically speaking? Some psychologists suggest that using our iPhones and BlackBerrys may tap into the same associative learning pathways in the brain that make other compulsive behaviors — like gambling — so addictive. As with addiction to drugs or cigarettes or food, the chemical driver of this process is the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

Ooh, what large, fancy words! Spooky language designed to scare me! I’m not falling for it!

In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects’ brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia.

You say this like it’s a bad thing, when in reality, I’ve always wanted to be a synesthete. So the joke is on you, sir!

(Note to self: using my newly-realized synesthesia abilities, write a symphony based on the shape of my next iPhone.)

But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.

That’s it! I’ve had enough of your crazy, rambling accusations! I am not an addict, and I don’t care what you or anybody else has to say about it. I’m fine!

In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.

Huh? Love?

So what you’re saying is I’m not addicted to my iPhone? I’m not a religious zealot? I’m not a crazy person unwilling and unable to admit how pathetic my life, tethered to an inanimate object, has become?

You know what? You’re absolutely right. I’m not an addict.

I’m hopelessly in love.

I was wrong about you, Mr. Lindstrom. I’m sorry for yelling at you. I’m sorry for calling you a pretend scientist. I’m sorry for any hard feelings I may have caused.

My best advice? Shut off your iPhone, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way.

Go fuck yourself.