Of all the minor technological inconveniences, there are few I find more irritating than a push notification reminding me to update iOS, the core operating system, on my iPhone. First of all, it happens far too frequently when there is absolutely nothing wrong with my phone. Secondly, if the phone is so smart, it should update itself and leave me to scroll through Twitter while pretending to watch The Romanoffs. I exaggerate, of course. I would never watch The Romanoffs.
After updating to iOS 12 I was horrified by the new time management paradigm being forced on me, supposedly for my convenience. At the end of that week, a screen time report suddenly popped up informing me I “averaged one million hours of screen time last week,” which a more detailed graph explained was two hours less than “normal.” A step counter was reporting on my movement (it’s always done this, but I only recently found out about it) and this is how I learned it’s possible to take negative steps throughout the day. It had also begun monitoring my email app (which is Spark, not even the built-in, native Mail.app) and a banner notification began reminding me to follow up on emails I received weeks ago. Suddenly, I was feeling scolded, which at first I likened it to relentless parenting; Apple is NOT my mom and I am a grown-ass woman who can monitor my steps the old fashioned way, by counting on my fingers.
Perhaps my resentment toward iOS 12, if that’s even the correct iOS that I’m railing against, is that it brings out the worst in me. The problem is not the amount of time that I spend on screen, or the emails I miss, or the steps I take. The problem is that I’m in denial about my behavior and Apple, like the frightening overlord it is, reminds me constantly of my self-deceit. My whole life I’ve enjoyed living in a protective dome of my own lies (of course I look good in palazzo pants; obviously I can pull off microbangs; yes, that wrap sandwich is healthy and good for me). Siri, that stoic bitch, will not allow such fantasies.
iOS 12 is not actually like a parent; it’s more like the kind of high school teacher who gives you a hard time when you take too long with the bathroom pass. Or perhaps it’s the hall monitor, a terrible combination of nerdiness and ego that empowers only the least deserving. As a former crossing guard, I’m allowed to say this.
Technology is starting to love punishing us for utilizing it: Netflix asks if you’re “still watching,” when the answer is always, pathetically, yes. My iPhone’s screen time monitor and weekly report (a freaking report!!) has the same cold yet chiding tone. Once I picked up my phone only to find yet another passive aggressive suggestion reminding me to email Neil. I do not remember who Neil is. I would not email him even if I did. Not that Apple would know this, despite silently watching my behavior on my phone for years now, but not responding to emails and texts is kind of my thing. I’m known for it and people find it so cute that they’ve stopped inviting me to things. So no, I won’t be emailing this “Neil” and you, iPhone that’s only trying to do what’s best for me, can get bent.
Did you know the show Black Mirror is called that because of the reflective black surface a screen makes when it’s powered down, holding up a MIRROR to our technology-addicted society? Get it? (Get it? Get it?) I know that not because I’m a fan of the show (I only watch Rock of Love reruns), but because someone told me. Maybe it was Neil.
Most people, I believe, have some form of personality dysmorphia that lets them think they’re better than they are (or, in my case, that I am a trash demon), but technology is trying to push through these comforting lies. I cannot fudge the personal, nightmarish information my phone provides for me. All I can do is stop complaining about this luxury item that I’m fortunate enough to buy every few years and face the truth.
Haha, just kidding, this company can’t force an epiphany. I turned off Screen Time and pretend the step-counter doesn’t exist. I will see these notifications in hell, but not before I see them, improbably and almost certainly against my will, in iOS 13.