The Great Modern Commodity

Drew Campbell

              Some are bulky and confined to a home office—an entanglement of unsightly cords stuffed between a desk and a wall. Others are portable—able to be folded up and slipped into a backpack, along with some books that will remain unread. Some are portable enough to be placed into a purse. However, the real portable ones are situated in our pockets, waiting for a vibration or a text tone so they can be pulled out and fixed in front of our slavering faces. They're as ubiquitous as wallets and equally purposed to aid consumption. They're the mobile town crier, notifying us of the latest buzz, the juiciest rumor, the most scandalous tweet, the most infuriating news, the pressing exposé, the urgent email, the hottest filter, the recent weather update—the hoopla and the shit. They're every person's personal person from Porlock, purloining productivity and perpetuating procrastination. They make us alliterate. No, they make us illiterate. They teach us that a written message is best conveyed in 420 characters or less. No, 200 characters or less. Better yet, just describe your experience with a 5-star rating system. They're impatient. Like Studio Ghibli's No-Face, they're greedy for attention and possess an insatiable appetite. They're the pestering mosquito, incessantly buzzing and attempting to drain you of your life. They're your personal security. They privatize your curiosities and search histories. They're judgmental. They compare your face to façades. They both conceal and expose your imperfections. They harass and berate. They entrance and beguile. They're the captor of our precious time, and we all have a self-inflicted version of Stockholm syndrome. 
              Some have 32GB, and some have 256. Some are black, some are white, some are (PRODUCT)RED, but most are in cases. A special case that exemplifies my unique, artistic predilection: a custom Redbubble cartoon of Bernie Sanders with mittens, so people know I'm hip. Some are small, and some are less small. Some have become inconveniently large (once again) and must be constantly schlepped around in a palm, like an extension of the body, putting off a vibe that shouts, "this phone and its contents really, really matter to me!" Every phone charger is as essential as a femoral artery. Every cheap, half-engaged moment is an opportunity for a selfie, a boast, a trophy, that chance to show everyone that you do fun things that are more fun than other people's fun things. Some are used mostly for work, though: hours of conference calls and scheduling and text updates. Some are used for photography—decent photography. Something that selfies do not constitute. Some are just used for gaming: "If I'm not the imposter this round, I'm rage quitting." Some are... well, most are used for entertainment. Yep. You sit there, slumped like an invertebrate, hunting for the next scrap of news so you can work yourself into a conniption of indignation. "How many fruitless memes or garbage, armchair-journalist-fabricated, not even TMZ worthy, emotionally impairing, mind-numbing, irreverent, trivial news headlines can I devour today?" Really, most are just for farting around: an OLED Super Retina Display flashing up at an under chin, an indolent face staring stupidly at videos of troglodytes, and a zombified finger forever scrolling for the next 15-second bit of cheap amusement. Like a miserable, lolling smoker at a casino, you sit there wilted with pink eyes, spinning the slot machine. We all have miniature casinos in our pocket, and all—all of them—are undoubtedly engineered to rob us of our time, the great modern commodity.


              Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping,
              Into my phone screen…

01000100 01101111 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110011 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01100101 01100011 01101000 01101110 01101111 01101100 01101111 01100111 01111001           

Contributor's Note

Drew Campbell is a senior in the Secondary English Language Arts program. He and his fiancé are still traveling, working toward the goal of camping in all fifty states. As an emendation to last year’s contributors’ notes, Drew has abandoned the practice of wearing socks with sandals; he now only wears Teva’s, the unprecedented, yet slightly unsightly (but nevertheless functional) lightweight quilted slip-on. Go buy a pair.