Walking around campus, blasting music through my Bluetooth earphones, I always notice how many people are doing the same. With or without an aux cord, most of Boston College can be seen walking around with buds in their ears. Walking up to someone and casually removing one earbud is a new greeting that’s only becoming more and more familiar as personal technology becomes even more synonymous with one’s person.
At the forefront of this blurring line between the person and the computer is, of course, Apple. Apple unveiled its latest pieces of technology last week, and wealthy college students across the country eagerly held their breaths—and their wallets—as they waited for Tim Cook to read that gloriously large price tag for the newest iPhone. While the exceedingly large iPhone XS Max is as grand as its name suggests, it’s still affordable for anyone who has recently collected life insurance or is waiting for their check from the Mass lottery to come in the mail. For those prescient innovators with large bank accounts who recognize that smart watches will one day dominate the market, there’s also the newest Apple Watch Series 4. Now with an EKG monitor and increased display size, this newest series of smart watches pushes itself to be a companion that is … healthy. Ordinary. Necessary. So as Apple launches even further into its trillion-dollar evolution, as it unveils product after product and becomes steadily synonymous with many people’s ideas of the future, I can’t help but think about how quickly and easily everything that was once so innovative and technological is becoming natural.
Watching the release of the new Apple Watch, one will notice the emphasis Apple is placing on the physical and medical usages of its product. The sales page has icons of monochromatic people sweating and running while wearing the watches, and the new EKG monitor is “designed to improve your health every day and powerful enough to help protect it.” This development is coming only a few months after the release of iOS12, which Apple actually released to curb your iPhone addiction: “Do not disturb” settings are now modifiable, and notifications can be adjusted as to how they appear on a lockscreen. It is weird to cure phone addiction with one’s phone, but it makes sense since Apple is trying to get consumers to manage their addictions, not cure them. People should not be addicted to their phones, but the more phones become incorporated into every facet of life, the harder it is to call it an addiction—it’s a genuine necessity.
These iOS updates and new features are reflecting what is unfolding everywhere: the simple but jarring truth that technology is indubitably becoming an inherent part of the modern person. This isn’t a new trend—anyone with cochlear implants or pacemakers is aware of the naturalization of technology. Apple is healthy, after all. You can even check your pulse. So it’s hard for me to describe myself as “addicted” to my phone when I use it so fluidly with everything in my life. I use my phone to check email and send messages, to find transportation and to get into concert venues, and soon I could use my watch to give me an EKG. Technology isn’t something that can be bracketed as an addiction or lamented as a negative development: It is an integrated part of living. The necessary conversation regarding the drawbacks of such integration can’t be held while thinking about phones as accessories, as Apple is showing that this technology is naturalized, seamless, and biological.
Whenever I reflect on technology like this, I always think of myself as more independent than that—I tell myself that I don’t even use my phone that much. Then I think about pulling my earbuds out as a greeting, and I remember how it feels as natural as waving hello. But I also remember how often I don’t pull out my earpods, and I don’t wave hello. How often I find myself just holding my phone, swiping between home screens, thoughtless. But, hey, an Apple a day keeps the doctor away—doesn’t it?
Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor