Does the iPhone hate dogs?
I know, that’s not a fair question. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the iPhone, if all smartphones, will fundamentally alter our relationship with our most trusted, faithful, ready-to-die-for-us-but-until-then-let’s-go-for-a-walk companions.
The arrival of the iPhone has, for better and for worse, diverted significant chunks of our attention away from both people and places. That much we know. But what about our dogs? Do we no longer require their fellowship? If not, what happens to them?
I do not know. The possibility of this scenario is without precedent. In such cases, I turn to fiction.
In the beloved film classic, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, all the dogs and cats are dead. Briefly, it’s because apes from the future come back to the present (1983) and, well, a disease subsequently wipes out all our little friends. Not a problem. Humans, being a resilient lot, decide apes will make effective pet replacements. They also quickly realize apes can do all sorts of things, more, even, than dogs and cats.
Smartphones are our apes is what I’m saying.
Let’s set aside for the moment how the apes launch a rebellion and wipe out most of humanity. For now, smartphones provide immediacy, interaction, diversion from our stresses. They tell us when to exercise, remind us if we are spending too much time at work, offer comfort when we are upset. They play music, show videos, hold our entire library, manage our schedule. They learn our habits, know our routines, and make us better than we are.
So why even have a dog?
These are the primary reasons for having a dog:
- Dogs alert us to dangers. They can even alert us to changes in our body.
- Dogs remind us to go out for a walk. They help us lose weight and get fit.
- Dogs are always there, always ready to interact with us at a moment’s notice.
- With dogs, we feel more connected, happier.
- If you have OCD, depression, or suffer from PTSD, dogs can help.
- Is your child safe? A dog can warn you.
- If you feel lonely, your beloved dog offers comfort.
- Need someone to just listen, empathize? Dogs are especially good at this.
Thing is, smartphones already do all of these. Some they do even better than dogs. And should you need to track a loved one, if they have a smartphone that’s much better than if you have a dog.
Smartphones also cost a great deal less than pets.
My oldest dog just required surgery. This set me back $5,000. That alone pays for two shiny new iPhones, an Apple Watch and at least two years of cellular service.
It’s not the cost, however, that prompted my speculation on the necessity of dogs. It was a trip to the vet. The old dog was in his normal jovial mood when I drove him in for surgery, despite having to go without eating for more than 12 hours. But he quickly got scared, intuiting the clinical surroundings could only mean something was amiss. He kept nudging up against me, kept seeking reassurances. I happily obliged. Every time.
Until one time when I did not. I was busy tweeting some brilliant insight, as I do, when I suddenly realized he was trying especially hard to grab my attention. A scared dog will do that. I stuck my iPhone in my pocket and left it there for the remainder of the appointment.
It is extremely difficult to put away that beckoning screen. Not just for me but for hundreds of millions of others. This is fact and offered without judgment.
Where does this lead us? Again, I do not know. I do know that smartphones will alter us because they will alter our relationships, disrupt our time, rearrange our priorities, and deconstruct traditional links with our surroundings.
I wish I could say always for the better, but that would be a lie.
The old dog’s fine. In fact, the vet says he probably has four good years remaining. What our screens will do for us by then, I can only imagine. I do know they are replacing much more than just other gadgets.