Seasons, Siri, and the Art of Self-Awareness
A strange thing happened as the seasons changed here in Portland, from the rainy one to the less rainy one: I stopped using Siri. When the iPhone 4S launched back in October of 2011, I was instantly sold on Apple's digital assistant in a way that many around me weren't. The value was crystal-clear to me how I could get things done without ever subjecting my phone to the manic conditions we experience here in the Pacific Northwest. As a voracious consumer of music I am often found with earbuds in my ears, and as such the primary way I'm alerted to new texts, emails, calls, and Facebook messages is through the all-too-familiar chimes my iPhone sends my way.
The drizzle has a way of finding its way into every nook and cranny up here, and it's all you can do to not drown every gadget you have in it. Siri has been my lifesaver to this end. When I'd leave the train platform I'd hold my little remote attached to my headphones down: "Text Patrick" "Are you home yet?" "Send". That was it. Back to my music, phone safely tucked into the breast-pocket of my coat, I walked to my apartment humming along to the music patiently waiting for Tri-tone to tell me my roommate had responded and I could once again let Siri spring into action.
But even here the rain eventually stops and the Gray gives way to bluish skies and something resembling sunshine. My hand now reaches for the phone that's moved from next to my heart to next to my butt. I read texts and respond in the same way I have since that original iPhone landed in my hands all those years ago. The question is "why?". Why have I stopped using this revelatory piece of technology that served me so well only a few short months prior?
If I had to wager a guess it's because I, like so many people, am concerned I look like an asshole. Even during the Fall and Winter months, I'd only use Siri when I was on my own, away from most people and certainly friends. She was my invisible friend, the Harvey I wasn't prepared to introduce to others, and since I have no practical concerns in the form of precipitation, I can ignore her functions completely.
This is something Apple is going to have to solve, the self-consciousness we feel when we start ostensibly talking to our devices. Or maybe they won't. I'm reminded of the one salient point made by the movie Phone Booth: "It used to be a mark of insanity to see people talk to themselves. Now it's a mark of status." Or maybe Siri will remain a seasonal affair for me. A dalliance I engage in in the dreary months; a strange bedfellow employed to minimize risk and maintain connectivity, her "ding-ding" and awkward cadences mixing with the incessant rain and tires treading water to remind me fall has arrived.