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Yesterday, I took a little trip to the local Apple store around lunchtime. Made a Genius Bar appointment and everything. The battery on my phone had been dying a slow, painful death (still rocking that iPhone 8 – planned obsolescence be damned) and was in dire need of a replacement.

My assumption heading in was that this would take 5, maybe 10 minutes. Wham, bam, thank you Genius. I mean, how long could it take to swap a battery?

As it turns out: about an hour and a half. 

The worst possible amount of time. Too quick for me to go home and come back later and just long enough to make me uncomfortable about the prospect of being phoneless. Had I known this was what I was in for, I would have probably brought a book or maybe my laptop, but alas, this was now the predicament I found myself in.

Making matters worse, I hate shopping so popping in and out of other stores in the mall wasn’t a great solution. So instead, I just wandered around a suburban mall, alone with my own thoughts.

You know, like a psychopath.

As I strolled around aimlessly, I became amazed at how quickly all of my instincts inevitably led me to my phone. I caught myself multiple times forgetting that it wasn’t in my possession as I looked for ways to kill the time.

Maybe I’ll just scroll Twitt…oh nevermind.

I guess I could just listen to a pod…damn.

Perhaps I’ll take some notes for a blog po…arrrghhhh.

Oh, I know. I’ll look through some recent pictur…son of a

I gotta admit,  I felt a bit like Garth Algar trying on a new pair of underwear:

“At first it’s constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you.”

With each passing minute, I became more accustomed to my temporary New Normal to the point where it became quite liberating.

If you were reading this post thinking eventually I’d pivot to some investment related content, I am sorry to disappoint you but that is not where this is going. What I can offer are some observations that came to mind as I navigated what I am acutely aware is the definition of a “First World problem”.

  • The world continued to spin on its axis: Most things we categorize in our inbox as important or urgent are actually neither.
  • Confusing convenience with inconvenience: In the <1% of the time when the internet goes down or an electronic device malfunctions, we immediately feel we are being inconvenienced. Perhaps we should reframe the existence of these technologies the other >99% of the time as magnificent conveniences.
  • We don’t spend nearly enough time truly alone. I hope this post doesn’t give the impression that my phone is surgically attached to my hand 24/7. There are plenty of times when my phone is away or in the other room. All those other times though I am merely replacing one distraction with another – TV, music, conversation, etc. It is so rare these days to be completely alone with our thoughts. At times, that can be uncomfortable. But I believe there is great mental benefit to it. Going forward, I’ll be looking to force myself into this type of situation more regularly. (although maybe not at a mall 🙂 )
  • Easier said than done: It’s quite easy to chastise a flock of teenagers exhibiting iPhone dependency, all heads down staring at their phones instead of enjoying each others’ company like WE did when we were that age. It’s not as easy to call yourself out for doing the exact same thing when your visiting with family or friends.
  • The degree to which our society has undergone a digital transformation is still underappreciated. We had iPhones ten years ago, but the degree to which they (and other smart phones) have engrained themselves in our daily habits and routines has accelerated exponentially. It’s hard to imagine this trend reversing and with that, what additional possibilities and challenges it will create along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to have my phone back and am more appreciative than ever of the conveniences it enables. But the fact that I am even writing about this makes me appreciate the complicated relationship I have developed with the supercomputer in my pocket. More than anything, it has created a greater awareness of my subconscious habits and the double-edged sword that accompanies technological progress.

About the author

Phil Huber, CFA, CFP®

Phil is the Head of Portfolio Solutions for Cliffwater, a leading alternative investment adviser and fund manager. Prior to joining Cliffwater in 2024, Phil was the Chief Investment Officer for Savant Wealth Management, a multi-billion dollar wealth management firm. Phil has been involved in the financial services industry since 2007. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He is a member of the CFA Society of Chicago. More about me here. Twitter: @bpsandpieces

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