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To iLove, iHonour, in iSickness and in...

Having to erase everything is like losing, well, (sniff) everything

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ON a Sunday afternoon, I stood in an Apple store with my heart, I mean my iPhone, in my hand.

The expert showed me the red delete button that would erase some of the brightest memories of my summer. He couldn’t stand to be responsible for them vanishing into tech wasteland. I had to be the one to press the button.

In that moment, I realized my phone was no longer just a phone. It’s so much more than any landline ever was.

Something like three-quarters of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone, according to a recent study from the World Bank. There are more than six billion mobile subscriptions. But this spike in cellular use isn’t about talking.

According to the study, more than 30 billion apps were downloaded in 2011. That’s a lot of Angry Birds, Words With Friends, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.

Our phones have become tiny historians and the keepers of our days. With calendars, texts and social media, a lot of details of someone’s life can be found on their cellphones.

And then there are the photos, my favourite mobile perk. You can’t eat a meal without capturing it on camera. It didn’t taste so unbelievably good if you can’t post it online.

Ten years ago, it wasn’t this serious. When my flip phone flipped out and quit working, it meant I missed a few calls for a few hours. Not now. As I stood in the middle of the store, I was about to erase what felt like my diary.

It was hard to wrap my head around this gadget’s emotional power. When I went into Apple because my power button quit working, I thought everything would be fine. I thought I backed my phone up when I updated it two weeks ago.

The expert said that wasn’t so. He sympathized. He’d had his own run-in with mobile loss, and now has a backup to his backups. He said it had been a few months since my phone had successfully been backed up.

WE tried to use the iCloud to store some of my photos, only to see that would take two hours. The alternative: I could go home, back it up and find another time to come back to the store and get a replacement phone.

With just days left on my warranty and the work week about to begin, putting off the task could cost me $200.

More importantly, I didn’t want to be the nomophobic techie who couldn’t bear the loss of her phone. This is why we have memories and mouths, to remember our lives and talk to our loved ones. A phone isn’t life. At least I hope it isn’t.

Still, I took a moment to email myself a few photos and a video of my puppy taking her first swim.

And then I pressed the red button of agony.

Within seconds, it was over.

My favourite new playlist, the one with Esperanza Spalding and Aaliyah? Gone. The image of my dogs in a rare moment, quiet and cuddling together?

Over. Oh yeah, that text dialogue between me and my husband that dates back to our dating days? Poof.

Just like that, I had a clean mobile slate. Back it up regularly, the tech reminded me. If there’s one thing I learned from this whole ordeal, it wasn’t the peril of using a phone as a biographer. No. What’s most important in this cellphone culture: backing that thing up.


— The Kansas City Star

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