Ode on a Blackberry
Does anyone else still think about what mobile digital discourse felt like before touch screens? No? Fascinating.
Written by Mattie Kahn, Illustration by Charlotte Fassler
Between November of 2009 and February of 2010, I wore through two pairs of cashmere gloves. The first time, I was mildly amused. (“I never liked those gloves,” I told myself. “They needed replacing anyway!”) But after a second pair suffered the same fate, I decided I needed to seek professional help. Damning evidence in hand, I met my friends for lunch.
“My name is Mattie Kahn, and I’m addicted to my Blackberry,” I confessed. I tossed a single worn-out mitten—pristine, save the grimly damaged thumb area—on the table.
“The first step is acceptance,” one of the assembled intoned sagely. The others just the others just laughed.
I’d secured my inaugural smartphone—you always remember your first—after accidentally leaving a badly battered Motorola RAZR in the backseat of a cab. When my initial fear of my parents’ wrath subsided, I gleefully realized that its loss would necessitate a new phone, and the new phone would be a Blackberry.
We were inseparable from the beginning. Passionately in love, attached at the hip, and troublingly co-dependent, my Blackberry and I had all the makings of a great first romance—or at least a great Jennifer Love Hewitt movie. Within weeks, I felt suffocated in the absence of 3G reception and only grudgingly tucked the device into my backpack during class. Soon, I was consulting its pixelated screen like a reflex. And before long, I could type without looking at its keyboard. BBM was officially my drug of choice. So publically acknowledged was my devotion that when my birthday rolled around, my friends constructed a perfectly scaled replica in vanilla buttercream cake and luridly dyed frosting. This did not embarrass me as much as it should have.
Still, like any self-respecting teenager, I would not let my undying affection preclude considerable bitching. I was aggrieved to find that the Blackberry didn’t fit comfortably in the back pocket of my jeans as my RAZR had and that it wouldn’t play Danity Kane’s “Showstopper” every time someone called me. I loudly bemoaned that boys could see I’d opened their pithy texts within seconds of receiving them and that lukewarm liaisons could tell when I was being evasive—which was always.
But secretly, I didn’t mind watching small, block-lettered “R”s appear alongside my sent messages. Whether they garnered desired responses or not, missives exchanged via BBM’s pared-down interface were as straightforward as the limits of modern communication would allow. To wit: when my friend’s longtime boyfriend traded in his snazzy T-Mobile Sidekick for the Blackberry Curve, he looked at her brightly and said, “You used to just suspect I was ignoring you. Now you’ll finally know!”
Still, bad boyfriend behavior aside, I’m instantly nostalgic for a time of such digital candor. I know it isn’t chic to say so. I know iPhones are incomparably cooler and easier to use and I’ve had one since 2012, when buying another Blackberry seemed only slightly riskier than stepping aboard an already sinking Titanic. But the truth is—cashmere casualties notwithstanding: I really, really miss my Blackberry.
I miss its tactile keyboard and seemingly indestructible frame and the strange satisfaction that came from sending an angry PING! to a recalcitrant interlocutor. I miss BBMing both the significant and unimportant boys and teaching my mom how to open a photo message and emailing my family from many, many miles away, because Blackberries had actual, functioning world editions, which were awesome.
I miss my Blackberry for what I imagine are probably a hundred idiosyncratic, meaningless reasons…not one of which is compelling enough to convince me to rejoin all 14 of the toupee-wearing businessmen and door-to-door salesmen and used-car agents who realistically still depend on theirs.
But do me a favor, okay? Just don’t try to tell me that iMessage and BBM are pretty much almost exactly basically sort of the same thing. Because—now, really—that would just be silly.