Generation Y's unique relationship with technology, or why I can't have nice things

I broke my phone. Again.

It's not all that surprising, really. I've lost any number of phones to what I consider "normal use" — and what my father dubs "horrendous neglect" — like dropping it or getting it wet. And for the non-normal usage ... Can I really be blamed for a bus running over my phone?

(It was a flip phone; I was in college, I got off the bus with the phone flipped open, ready to text, whereupon it jumped [jumped! mind you] from my hands and flung itself under the bus. Likely out of envy of other, smarter phones, coupled with pity for me, stuck with it. You are missed, phone. Well, not so much missed. Vaguely remembered.)

This time, it again wasn't my fault, except for the part where it broke as a direct result of my actions. I dropped the phone on my bed (as per usual), whereupon it rebounded onto the floor and struck, screen-first, against the spines of a tall stack of particularly weighty hardback books. When I turned it on, it did not. Well, the buttons lit up, but the screen just flashed blue lightning at me from the visible cracks in the screen. I thought it best to shut the stupid thing down before I Force-lightninged myself.

So I went to Craigslist and eBay, and eventually found an older smartphone Amazon had on sale for about $75. This is actually why I tend to shy away from the newest, most expensive tech — I'm afraid I'll break it. The phone that fell under a bus was a flip phone back when flip phones weren't really in style anymore. The phone I broke a few days ago was a creaking Android phone I got for $100. It ran Gingerbread, for cryin' out loud — for you non-techies, it was about as powerful as an original iPhone.

(OBLIGATORY NOTE TO MY EMPLOYERS: Things that are not mine, in the sense that I did not pay for, I am much more respectful of. I have never thrown [nor even lightly dropped] the shiny things I am given to play work with.)

Am I just unusually careless with my things, the broken litany not even a quarter-listed in the previous paragraph? Anecdotal evidence from Facebook would suggest I am, but only just. Think of how many times you've seen something to the effect of, "lost/broke my phone, so text me your number and your name so I know who you are." I doubt most people go through phones quite as quickly as I do, but the churn rate is higher than the 2-year contract upgrade. Heck, even actual evidence suggests that 1/3rd of the populace has lost or damaged a phone, and 20 percent of the people reading this post have dropped one in the john (one being a phone; definitely don't want an unclear antecedent with that phrasing).

I can't find hard numbers on it, but I'd be willing to bet that more of those damaged phones are at the hands of the young, in this case meaning my generation and below. Those who are older tend to have a few things we young'uns don't: patience. Perspective. Oh, yeah, and a healthy fear of technology.

Maybe there's something to be said for the reverence with which most old people (here defined as anyone over the age of 35) treat their various gadgets, be they smartphones, tablets or even (shudder) feature phones.

Want to see it in action? Hand your mom an iPhone. I almost dare you. My mom rocked an Android for almost 8 months and got nothing but frustrations. When she finally caved into the peer pressure and bought the iProduct — despite having the aforementioned practice on a smartphone — I became the by-phone (my dad's phone) tech support for two weeks while she figured out things like dialing a number, texting one person at a time (which I was more than happy to help with, given the texts I was getting that were meant for other people) and even figuring out how to shut it off properly.

It's a truism at this point that a disconnect exists between so-called "digital natives" and the rest of the world (we'll call them "normal people," but only until we digital natives have a majority. Then WE can be normal [for once]), and I think it comes down to how technology is viewed.

Forgive the overarching generalizations below: They do not represent absolutely everyone in both cohorts, but I think they draw general outlines that most people match up with fairly well.

People who have seen new technology come into use view the technology only in terms of its functionality, a means to an end. Cellphones (and smartphones) are not their lifeline to life itself, they're a means of communication. Sure, they'll learn how to Facebook on the go, post Instagrams to Twitter and message their unruly teen to make sure he gets home before curfew, but if you took it away they'd still survive. They've got paper address books, landlines and actual (still digital, usually) cameras that aren't grafted onto a phone.

I think most younger folks (present company included) treat a phone more as an appendage. Losing it is a lot like amputation, in that we can survive the trauma, but recovery involves actually having to go back and completely relearn how to do things.

Imagine you had to go without a cellphone or a tablet for six months, with no prior warning. How would you communicate with friends? How would you find a restaurant? How would your friends know that "Certain ppl need to lern to respect there bffs and not go behind they're bak." Some people wouldn't even be able to do their jobs properly. (Journalists.)

Paradoxically, this overreliance on technology actually leads some of us treat it as a commodity. It's certainly true in my case. I don't really care what computer I'm using as long as it runs. I don't really care what operating system my phone runs as long as it has Angry Birds. From a physicality standpoint, this non-attachment means I'm probably more wanton in my care than I should be (hence my perpetual progression of buying new phones) but, judging by their Facebook statuses, more of my friends take after me than do resemble my parents.

I don't treat most gadgets like they're shiny objects I'm worried might get scuffed. I treat them like books: I'm not going to go out of my way to destroy them, but bending the pages back or throwing it (literally) on a pile or the floor is perfectly acceptable, because I don't really care if it gets beat up a little.

To me, technology is a tool, in that you use it to create other things — it just happens to quite often be a very expensive tool. But you're supposed to use tools. Screwdrivers are meant to drive screws ... to build a birdhouse. Paintbrushes are meant to brush paint ... to make the birdhouse attractive to birds. Similarly, smartphones are meant to phone smarts ... well, you know what i mean.

You're not supposed to take it easy on tools. You're supposed to use them hard, or at least as hard as you need to. And you just have to live with the fact that sometimes, even though you may be using it properly, a hammer will randomly have its head fly off and see the claw part embed itself in the wall about a foot to the right of your head (true story).

Though I bet a $100 hammer wouldn't. (grumble)