We've come a long way. Eight whole years! It started with a click wheel and some Led Zeppelin albums. And for a while, it was a lot of practical, harmless fun. But it eventually became an illogical urge let you into every facet of my life.
Like all bad addictions, I've finally come to realize joy and utility no longer mask the negatives of your presence in my life. My wallet, my brain and the people around me have suffered as a result of my dealings with you. So I'm calling it quits. We're over.
I'll always remember it started on my birthday in 2004. We first met through a cubed box covered in silhouetted figures, dancing to what I imagined must have been the most upbeat song of all time. Had to be, cause the colors behind them were blindingly fluorescent -- not exactly hues you'd imagine during a requiem.
I connected my new iPod to my computer tower and waited. Soon I'd join those well-marketed silhouettes, a joyful countdown to party time. Suddenly, I get a folder with an exclamation point.
What the hell is this nonsense?
A bit of Internet browsing told me it's a shot hard drive. The first thing you ever gave me was a lemon, Apple. I immediately should have realized you were going to be difficult. More importantly, my reaction should have indicated I had a problem.
Did I graciously return the gift and say, Sorry, not for me like a sane person? No. Instead, I found myself standing in line at an Apple Store the next morning, dutifully swapping it for a replacement. Your minions were so carefree about the whole exchange, no less!
I just got it yesterday. It's already broken or something, I said, not feeling the least bit stupid as the words left my mouth.
Ah, that stinks. Lemme check, see if we can get you a new one right away, the cool dude in the Apple logo T-shirt said.
Turns out you, Apple, had no qualms swapping the duds you gave me for something that actually worked. You shut me up pretty quickly the first time with that kind of charm, though I'm sure you were happy to see I snagged a bunch of iPod socks (remember those moronic things?!), a dock and extra charger along the way. But you kind of knew I'd do that, didn't you?
This time, the iPod worked. Suddenly, I went from that guy sheepishly swapping out batteries in my Discman to that stud spinning his thumb around a click wheel. Yes, I have an entire music collection in my pants, ladies. That super cool Cupertino, Calif., company you forgot about gave it to me.
I liked you so much I introduced you to my mom a few months after we met. Got her one of your sleek iPod shuffles, the one that used to be the size of a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. Fit all of her favorite Bob Dylan and Nick Drake songs. She quickly thought you were great too.
Things stayed cool between us until my grad school handed me one of your slick, easy-to-use MacBooks. I'm not sure what heroin is like, and Lord knows I won't compare using a damned computer to illicit drug addiction. But I will say the necessity to have your products glowing in front of my face grew at about the same rate as a junkie's need to pump smack into his or her veins.
Now the MacBook played nice with my iPod, unlike that damned Windows PC. It rarely crashed, took quite a beating and had no qualms staying on for 18 hours a day for three straight years. It also removed the hassle of maintaining my digital photos via iPhoto. I actually felt like Federico Fellini when mashing together videos from a vacation using iMovie. The hooks dug in, and soon you started flooding me with a slew of devices I had to own.
There was the iPod touch, the iPod Nano. The Classic iPod with 160 gigs of space, that played video? Sure, why not! I even bought that horrendous Apple TV when it came out, without certainty it could actually connect to the television I own.
You also became the go-to gift for others too. Adapters, chargers, cases, gift cards; stuff for people who also bought your stuff. You were so awesome to me, I wanted to share you with all my friends.
I'd tell my friends, Nah, this is a really cool case for your iPod. You'll love it! and be wholly blind to the befuddled look on their faces. But damn Apple, you were expensive.
Soon I was buying stuff and I didn't even know what purpose it served. Accessories for devices I didn't even own. Apps that replicate the sound of human flatulence that apparently seemed like a worthy purchase at some point. I did not I find this sort of behavior unreasonable. Thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on essentially a meat grinder for my brain.
You made me dumber with admirable stealth, Apple. And like any guileless mark, I thought you were my friend.
Things took a turn though, when I couldn't upgrade that original white MacBook to OSX Snow Leopard. The horror! It started looking a bit dated; made me feel a bit dated as well. So I broke a rule I've managed to stick to my entire life -- don't incur debt for stuff I don't truly need.
There I stood, signing up for a Best Buy credit card, handing over my measly savings and walking out the door with a new MacBook Pro and about a grand-plus interest owed to a big-box electronics retailer. I said hello to the new laptop -- essentially the same as the old one. My mother has my old MacBook. She still uses it to this day. For the first time ever, I realized you duped me.
Aha! But I'd game the system and teach you a thing or two! I didn't own an iPad. Yet. In the convoluted world of addiction, one begins negotiating his or her way around problems by bargaining, outsmarting something that's already slurping money and energy voraciously. I'd wait for the new iPad's release date -- then buy the old one.
Instead, I eventually found myself $400 poorer, owning the ultimate passive consumption device, and feeling dumber than ever.
Things unraveled when my spiffy iPhone 4's push notifications reached a critical mass of absurdity and destroyed all common courtesy. Dates interrupted by eBay notifications; dinners, barbecues, workouts, sleep -- all cut short because someone re-tweeted me. I even had the bizarre experience of receiving a picture of someone else's text message exchange via text message. I shared too much and still knew too little.
I soon found myself sitting on my couch, three screens glowing simultaneously, updating apps on my iPad while tweeting snarky comments about Bill O'Reilly on my iPhone and downloading new songs on my MacBook. And I thought: Man, I really miss reading books.
It all culminated in a night out with friends. I noticed a bizarre social pattern: 15 minutes of conversation, followed by a phone break, then a breather, and back into conversation. Engrossing exchanges killed because iDevices dinged within proximity of each other around the same time. I paused while texting someone the ever-stupid Ok to look up and see four of my buddies' faces illuminated by their respective phones, thumbs tapping away at their phones. (I'm still waiting for the world to collectively admit touchscreen keyboards are an abomination.) Four of my closest friends, bosom buddies, happy to sit together silently indulging their electronic masters.
This, in addiction treatment terminology, is hitting bottom.
It's when I realized that more than anything, Apple, you had successfully made dehumanization the norm for me and countless other dupes. I used to mock the too-cool for Apple crowd as Neanderthals; the guys with two-year-old flip phones who said What do I need that thing for?
My allegiances warped to a justify a glowing shiny device that I eventually found out tracked everything about me it possibly could. You hooked me in, Apple, with convenience, intimacy, glamor and a small dose of serotonin every time I heard one of your devices go off. There's biology behind what you're deftly exploiting. And now that I'm keen to the ruse, the jig is up.
The day after the mass-texting debacle, I called my wireless service provider and demanded they cut off my text messaging. The response grew from confusion to disbelief. After explaining this wasn't a matter of cost but sanity, the customer service representative didn't actually know how to stop the hollow exchanges from hitting my phone. Nobody had asked for that before.
I asked how parents stop their teens from texting.
Oh, parental blocking, the rep responded.
So I blocked myself. Parentally. I cut off the data connection on my phone as well.
The ensuing confusion among friends ended up leading me to be dismissively called an old fogey, idiot, and a general consensus that I'll come back to my senses and re-connect. It's been six months and I'm as connected to the people that matter as I ever have been. I call them. I hear their voices. They call me. Communications that would take 10 minutes to tap out via text message now constitute a 20-second call.
Come over and watch the game.
Should I bring any food or beer?
I've become a breathless champion of wholly neutering every iPhone and letting it wither away in your pocket.
So what am I left with when I undo all of Apple's hard work? My iPhone is a really clunky, fragile phone with a horrendous connection. My iPad is a $400 lumbering Internet browser and portable TV. My MacBook a $1,300 device that's really good at checking email.
When I take away the perceived joy of your intrusions, Apple, what I'm left with is an overpriced piece of technology built in dubious conditions in China. It looks good, feels good to be seen with, but it barely works. Just like our relationship.
The protective cases are off, and I'm begging for a wayward cup of coffee, fumbling hand or lightning bolt from the heavens, to rid me of the remnants of our relationship, you Cupertino-based ogre.
The ultimate sign that this has gone too far, Apple? You've left me writing a soppy, emotive, tween-like letter to a monolithic corporate giant notorious for dismissing complaints from its customers. You probably won't read this. And as the world's largest company, you have every fiscal right to ignore me. But I hope I won't be the last to cut you off.
Regardless, we're through.