Crackling fires illuminated the broad facial features of early man as he fell asleep. Tens of thousands of years later, a new technology — smartphones — glows bright in dark bedrooms.
Humans have been nodding off to night-lights since we climbed out of the trees, where our distant ancestors certainly cast their eyes up toward star-crammed skies.
So, please, don’t tell me that I shouldn’t stare slack-jawed at my smartphone when I’m lying in bed. I mean, have you ever used a smartphone? The entirety of human knowledge is in there, plus videos of people falling off skateboards. How can I not peer into this device with awe and wonder right before I try to squeeze in six or seven hours of sleep?
If my house caught on fire, I would go save my dog first, then run back into the flames to grab my phone. The post-rescue selfie would be a-m-a-z-i-n-g. That’s how much I love the miraculous communication gizmo that calls my bedside table home.
I remember what it was like before phones were smart, when they were actually just phones tethered to the wall. Those were uncivilized times. But even then, I needed mental stimulation before surrendering to the Sandman. As a child, I read comic books under the sheets with a flashlight. Later, I listened to music on a portable, frisbee-sized CD player. I didn’t have a TV set in my bedroom until I became an adult, and getting one was a game-changer. At this point, I’ve been falling asleep to Judge Judy for years, and I’ve turned out just fine. My point is: When plunged into darkness, mortals have no option other than to think about death.
I’ve read many, many articles warning me that I should not, under any circumstances, look at my smartphone before bed. I read these articles on my smartphone before bed. Yes, there is plenty of legitimate research supporting these dire conclusions. But I have something better than science on my side: I really, really like snuggling into my blankets and fluffy pillows with my smartphone. But don’t take my word for it. Heed the advice of experts who are much smarter than I am. It’s perfectly possible that I will be the first person in recorded history to have their brain melted in bed by their smartphone.
But in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy limitless access to every kind of bedtime story imaginable: I can read celebrity gossip, ill-informed, hastily written knee-jerk opinions, and lists about ’90s pop culture. I can read thoughtful long-form journalism about the prison-industrial complex, smart short fiction about the human condition, and insane conspiracy theories about Beyoncé and the Illuminati. I can scroll through endless photos of dogs, pizza, and vacations that I will never be able to afford. One of my favorite simple pleasures is deciding whether or not to “heart” a friend’s selfie while tucked in under my covers. Those “hearts” have to mean something, you know.
Oh, and memes! One day, in a more sophisticated future, there will be whole museum wings dedicated to memes, the only unique art form our society has produced. If I get tired of words and pictures, I can watch an endless supply of short videos — last night I watched the original movie trailer to the ’80s sci-fi classic Robocop before drifting off to slumberland. My favorite bedtime videos, though, are the ones where soldiers return from long tours and surprise their children. I do love a good late-night sob.
Then there’s Twitter. Only one in five people are on Twitter. The four who aren’t on Twitter are probably having a pretty good life. Those of us hopelessly addicted to this ridiculously influential social media platform lie in bed and laugh-snort as thousands of people argue with each other at the same time. Of course, sometimes I’ll sit up and fire off a Tweet because I suddenly have a superficial thought I MUST share THAT instant. I am only human, after all.
I am certain that unplugging before bed will help you sleep. I know many famous gurus recommend turning off your smartphone at the end of the day and, I don’t know, meditating. Learning how to meditate is on my personal “to-do list” that I update on my smartphone. It will be a challenge since my brain is one of those wind-up toy monkeys that clash cymbals. Even when my face is like stone during an intense work meeting, my brain is just CLASH-CLASH-CLASH-CLASH. I have never been able to stop the toy monkey. At best, I need to slow down my brain the way a treadmill slows down from a steady jog to a fast walk and then to a stroll. Until I learn how to become a serene warrior monk, though, I’m going to happily hold my smartphone a few inches from my eyes as my head rests in a nest of pillows.