The Idol In My Back Pocket


Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons. (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2113)

At the cellular store, ten people were ahead of me. Drat! Never mind the fact that I had checked in at 10:06 precisely, mere minutes after the store’s opening. The friendly clerk informed me of the wait time. With a dozen fellow technology addicts in the queue, I took a seat and began scanning the faces of the rest of the sorry saps who were experiencing problems with their mini-wonder/ fun boxes. I saw a lot of agitation. Or perhaps I was projecting my experience on to them. Maybe. But I could swear there was some serious “jonesing” going on.

My iPhone wasn’t working and I was mildly panicking. It has become my go-to for just about everything. My kid asks a question: How was the atom bomb created? Seriously?! I don’t know—let me look that up. I need directions getting out of my driveway. Type in the address and a nice lady starts talking to me. And she doesn’t raise her voice in the slightest like my dad did when he taught me to drive. “No! I said turn here! Not there. HERE!” When you’re as directionally challenged as I am, the kind, comforting voice from google maps is what I imagine the Blessed Mother sounds like, urging me to peace. “You need to seek my son. Go to Him, my child. He is waiting just there for you.”

My phone contains all of my contacts. I’ve got only two numbers memorized. Mine and my husband’s. That is it. Twenty years ago, I could recite at least 10. My smartphone isn’t “all looks and no substance” either. It packs a whole library of books in my Kindle app. Laudate, a free Catholic app, keeps me apprised of the day’s readings and prayers. Don’t forget email. It’s how I stay in-the-know with my kids’ school while I’m away from home. I also have Netflix and Amazon Prime which allow me to binge watch all the latest PBS shows. Have you seen “Poldark” yet? There are social benefits as well. I walk into a room or meeting where I know no one… No problem—just pull “insta-friend” out of my pocket to chase away any social awkwardness. Oh yeah, and it’s a phone. Although to be completely honest, I prefer texting, which I do more than a millennial on vacation.

Let’s face it. I’m an addict. It snuck up on me and caught me unsuspecting. In seventh grade, I remember the scary, doomsday films we watched about drug addiction. The films were old which made them even creepier as we watched in the dark classroom. Their 70’s background music sounded warped, as haggard, humorless people detailed their obsession with some illicit drug. I remember their voices being very gravelly and unnatural as they related the depths they had fallen. One heroin addict had lost most of her teeth. I was mesmerized and horrified at the same time. Needless to say, it worked. I was scared straight and never touched a narcotic in my life. I’m well into my 40’s, no addictions here…

Last night, our internet went down. I had already been experiencing phone problems. No sweat. I’ll just use the handy dandy laptop. Apparently, a repairman accidentally clipped a line that cut off a large swath of the Denver area’s internet connection. What?! No internet?! The blackout lasted about five hours. One headline read, “Internet outage. Denver is losing its mind.”

My own mind raced. What am I going to do? I have emails to send. I reached for my device and repeatedly tried to get an internet connection. The computer would show the “server not found” page and then I’d just try again as if I hadn’t yet willed it enough. Gratefully, I was able to do a little surfing on my phone connection. But what a chore! It felt like dial-up after the instant gratification I’m accustomed to. Pathetic. Well, let’s just say this little experience has caused me to question my dependence on Steve Job’s super creation.

When my phone vibrated alerting me I was next in line, I sat up expectantly. I explained to the technician that my phone’s battery has been discharging too quickly. Comic Jerry Seinfeld draws a funny parallel with the cell phone battery and our human internal battery. As the battery dwindles, so too does our personal energy begin to drain at a rapid clip. This has been my experience for the last few weeks. I was running low on energy. The nice clerk explained that I had replacement protection so I could get the same model. “Or,” he said with an undeniable gleam in his eye, “You can easily upgrade.” Upgrade? An immediate rush of excitement. The flood of possibilities saturated my entire brain in one tantalizing jolt.

I left the cell phone store with the same phone. A shiny new twin of my “bestie” will arrive in the mail tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m considering making the move to a flip phone. According to Verizon—a definite downgrade. In terms of trying to be a well-adjusted, God-centered, contributing member of society—upgrade. “But I think you need internet to get GPS,” my husband has already cautioned me. He would likely become my default GPS if I ditch the smartphone. He’s heard it all before. “I’m totally lost. Why can’t I see the mountains anymore? Where am I?” It’s a handicap.

The question is, do I have what it takes to break the addiction and get where I really need to be going? To be continued…

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