When you reach for a device, which one is it? If you’re like me, it’s almost always a smartphone. Unless I’m sleeping or driving, mine is constantly within reach, either in my pocket or on the table in front of me. The smartphone’s unrelenting utility, driven by its endless mutability, makes it an indispensable companion in our modern age.

Whether this is a plus or a minus depends on your perspective. For the first time in the history of humanity, you never have to be out of communication with the ones you love. By the same token, you can never truly be beyond the reach of anyone in the world as long as a smartphone is with you. It’s the ultimate double-edged sword, the soft weapon made real.1

While I think about this concept a lot, it came back to me when I decided to delete Twitter (well, Tweetbot really) from my phone for something like the tenth time today. It’s not that I don’t like it. The fact that I like Twitter is actually the whole problem.

It’s fun to live on the bleeding edge of today’s topics of interest and outrage. It’s also exhausting. I find myself scattered after no more than a few minutes, and a disconcerting resentment begins to creep up when anyone or anything in the real world tries to pull me away. It feels like I’m nibbling at the edges of an addiction, and that’s profoundly frightening.

What’s on your home screen? Does it make your life better? What would you have to add or subtract to get closer to where you want to be?

Here’s a quick quote from Seneca’s Letters to his nephew Lucilius. The topic is only tangentially related, but this passage always makes me feel better about my tendency to reread old classics:

Be careful, however, that there is no element of discursiveness and desultoriness about this reading you refer to, this reading of many different authors and books of every description. You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind. To be everywhere is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole life travelling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships. The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all. Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong. Nothing is so useful that it can be of any service in the mere passing. A multitude of books only gets in one’s way. So if you are unable to read all the books in your possession, you have enough when you have all the books you are able to read.

  1. Quite literally if you were unfortunate enough to own a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. ↩︎