[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]
What is a phone? This one word encompasses things that have almost no similarity: toll booths, landlines, flip phones, smart phones.
A phone’s most basic and most identifiable feature is to make present the voices of distanced mouths. How it works is similar to when you and I speak through paper cups connected by a string. There is also a string connecting my phone to Mom’s, and also to all the phones of the world. Some phones have a visible string, but the string between most phones is too thin to be seen; it reaches all the way into space and back down again.
Phones have always represented communication. And as they develop, so too does the way we talk. In the early years, innovation meant we installed a phone in a new place. And so the location of conversation changed—from work, to the home, even into the car. But as phones developed even more, innovation meant we used a phone in a new way. And so the method of conversation changed—from calling, to texting, to emailing, and now to video-chatting and social media interactions.
What motivated this development is seen in how phones are now capable of much more than communication. A phone directs drivers, inspires dinners, teaches languages, sells and buys products, and entertains, infinitely. These decadent evolutions reveal our motivation: we want phones to be like us. We want our phone to see, so it has a camera. We want our phones to display emotion, so it has emojis.
Our phones have become the catalyst and vehicle of our desire, dreaming up the rug we want and what our living room will look like when we have it. And our phones are now our second, but primary memory, storing countless pictures, messages, passwords.
So what then is a phone? It is mankind’s greatest attempt at the creation of mankind. What we carry in our pockets is ourselves, made in our own image.