When I got my first smartphone for my 18th birthday, I jumped up and down like the mature adult I now was. This new contract with AT&T was my initiation into the new world; I had never dealt with using data, downloading certain apps compatible with the latest software, having a variety of cases at my disposal, or feeling hip from owning one of the most popular phones today. I had also never dealt with feeling so terribly old.
In 2007, the first iPod Touch came out, and with it, the iPhone. No one I knew actually had an iPhone until high school -- now no one can truly live without this mini computer. In the last few days, I've become so attached to my device that I can't remember how I managed without it for so long.
Remember the days when using separate devices for music and socializing (gasp!) was what 99 percent of the population dealt with? Before that, every Christmas or birthday from 2005 to 2008, I was happy without either. I would ask my parents for a new CD and use an old Sony CD player to play select tracks that I actually liked. My secret but not prominent dream was to own an iPod shuffle, but at the time having any portable music was pretty awesome, even if it was too big to carry with me to school.
When I got my phone, many shouted in glee and immediately proceeded to Facetime me and send me emoji. I'm just a little late to the party of endless access to Facebook, Snapchat, voice texting, Instagram, QR Codes Scanning, Internet browsing, and Siri. Now our whole society is wired into technology and social media, and my peers can certainly understand my giddiness.
"I got my first iPhone when I was in ninth grade," said Erica DeMichel, a Long Island, N.Y. senior.
"I found that having an iPhone in high school helped me keep all of my obligations organized in one place."
Rachel Kim of La Crescenta, Calif. had a similar philosophy.
"I got my first iPhone last June. iPhones are extremely practical -- it eliminates my need to carry around a phone, a camera, a dictionary, etc."
For the majority of middle school (c. 2006-2009), my friends and I would pause by the Apple store, oohing and aahing, up until one of our friends even got just an iPod Touch. We were fascinated by this, the closest thing to an iPhone we had ever seen. We would then fight over who got to play with the touchscreen, who got to use the headphones (because back then there were no speakers on the iPod Touch), and endlessly use the cool YouTube app.
When I went home with my new iPhone 5 five and a half years later, I smugly expected my sister, a seventh grader, to beg to play with it day and night (like she did when I got my first Tamagotchi). But she seemed to care less about my newfound glory. She gave me a smile and something among the lines of, "Yay for you!" before bouncing away. I watched her play with her iTouch, a product she has been familiar with since fifth grade now (the year I started towing around my CD player), and realized technologically advanced devices no longer serve as a generational divider. That was then.
I realized that this was when I saw her friend carrying the same phone around just a few days later. She and her friend were Instagramming themselves with the front camera while walking (a bit of a public safety hazard), making duck faces traditionally associated with older women, all the while chatting casually about when their friends were also getting iPhones. No wonder the younger folk didn't care about me and my hipness -- they were already with the times, more than I, the latest addition to the world of adults.
Did I mention she was 10?
It's probably a cliche to talk about how kids are growing up way too fast these days. I've heard people mention it before, and read a few articles about it, too. But I was floored when I saw that 10-year-old, floored that someone born when only ¼ of 10-year-olds even knew how to use a phone was already way ahead of the game.
Apparently she isn't even the youngest one to use a phone.
"Now Apple makes apps for babies so they're learning to operate Apple products at a very early age," explained Madison Huffling, an Oklahoma senior (and someone not freakishly young).
"Teens should start using them as early as middle school... but kids don't need the phone/texting features."
Kim qualified that suggestion. "The most useful age is around 16 or 17. I see 12-year-olds with iPhones and I wonder if they utilize all the features."
Many more have discussed this trend, but I never thought I would. I'm not one of those people with bouts of nostalgia like, "Remember the days before MySpace and Facebook?" or "Remember when Disney shows were wholesome?" but now I have to say it: I have reconciled myself with the fact that the times, they are a-changin'.
After much begging and pleading, I got an iTouch for my 13th birthday. I considered myself ahead of the game in 2008, and I cradled that thing 24/7 (until it got stolen in 10th grade), obsessively learning as much as possible about how to take care of it, what things I could do with it, how much I could customize it, etc. I've barely seen the next generation do the same.
So maybe my initiation into adulthood isn't being able to sign my own permission forms, buy cigarettes and venture tentatively into strip clubs. Maybe it's just realizing how much technology has changed both our lives, and our outlooks.