Quitting the iPhone is a White Male Privilege

But everyone deserves the right to end their addiction

Paul Greenberg

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Photo by Dev Asangbam on Unsplash

Two stories came to me recently from friends that made me think more deeply about my decision to quit the iPhone. The first came from a recently single woman who had turned to the phone to find a partner. While I had dipped my toe into what was once called “online dating” in the early aughts I hadn’t realized how essential “the apps” have become in the 2020s for finding intimacy. More importantly to the iPhone question, I hadn’t realized how instrumental intentional anonymity is, particularly for women, when they venture outside the safe confines of their homes to enter into potentially risky situations. If there is one thing the iPhone excels at it’s a kind of masking that lets us engage superficially with others under the guise of a semi-permeable electronic identity. For my friend, this masking was key to helping her feel safe when she met strangers. It gave her a refuge to retreat to if that stranger she was meeting turned out to be, well, strange.

What you shouldn’t do is think of your phone as an “everything tool” that leads you to things that are less and less relevant to your core being.

The other intentional masking iPhone story came to me from a male friend during a dinner party. But unlike my woman friend on the dating apps who feared being overpowered by an anonymous stranger, this friend used the iPhone’s intentional masking capability to allay the irrational fear anonymous strangers had of him. My friend is black and tall and prior to the iPhone’s invention he’d found it close to impossible to hail a taxi. Abandoned in all parts of his home city, he’d often have to walk for miles to find public transportation or, if it was very late, walk all the way home. Uber and Lyft changed all that. The anonymity of the iPhone short-circuited taxi drivers’ knee-jerk, socially constructed racism and allowed him to get home safely. Along the way it probably caused more than a few cab drivers to reconsider how they were vetting fares. When he explained all that to me over dinner my friend held the phone aloft and said in effect that “this thing” had set him free.

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org