Is Kim K’s Loss Revealing Untouched Techno-Grief?

Last week it was reported here that Kim K’s beloved BlackBerry Bold had come to the end of its life. While we don’t need to go into all the details again, CNET have posted an article which has forced me to think about something.  In the article, it is revealed that Kim K actually received a bouquet of flowers from a friend in sympathy for her loss.  Are we as a society so technologically embedded that we are seeing new forms of grief emerge?  If so, why is our attachment to an object so emotionally driven and should we avoid this or adapt as we have with technological changes in the past?

Kim K's meme

Technological Amputeeism

We all know that our phones have become a reflection of who we are.  What we are seeing at the moment is that far from smartphones being merely disposable devices, our devices are now becoming an extension of ourselves.  It is logical that when our devices become unusable, we will suffer a feeling of disconnect.  We experience a kind of technological amputeeism.  Technological amputeeism is where, for a period, we find ourselves lost and confused without our comfortable device.

I refer to this as amputeeism because similar to changing systems, you have the phantom reactions to an old system.

I keep going to swipe up when I should do a double tap

A dead device however is slightly more serious.  When you want to refer to your diary, or email’s, you can’t.  When someone needs to call you to make a date or find out where you are, they can’t.  Have an emergency and need to get in touch with someone?  Sorry! Dead device.  Like when a true amputee goes to favour their missing arm or leg, our instincts tell us to use our device to achieve a function.

Kim K’s Missing BlackBerry

What we are seeing with Kim K’s dead Bold is a direct and inevitable outcome of techno-amputeeism.  It’s techno-grief.  This techno-grief comes as a result of certain factors.  The first is, as I have mentioned, our dependence upon the functions which our mobile performs in our daily lives.  The second is due to the freedom with which we have made the choice of a particular device.  The third and most important is what that choice says about us.

What we see about Kim K’s lifestyle and actions tell us that image plays a big part in defining her as a person.  Most of us in the first world follow that line of thinking.  How we are seen by others, or, as John Swinton (practical theologian at Aberdeen University) would put it, how we are recognised, is important to us.  Many current BlackBerry users are defined by their phone’s ability to out perform other mobile devices.  This isn’t so much about apps as it is sheer performance.  When our device is beaten by another, it pains us.  It hurts because we are the ones who decided to buy this device and we’re supposed to be better informed.  Kim K’s announcement and need for help last week sparked something in the BlackBerry user.  It sparked our fear that our identity would be lost.

Phone Identity Awareness

One of the first tools in counselling is to help the client be aware of their own issues.  When I ask someone how they feel, or what they think, it’s an attempt to make them aware of their own situation.  Awareness helps us to see the framework for our struggles.  When we see the framework, we can examine small sections and deal with our griefs piece by piece.  Just say I became aware that I am concerned about how people see my competence.  If my device is what assists me to maintain that competence, then I’m in real trouble when my device dies. Kim K’s grief show’s her lack of self awareness regarding her phone.  She has been marketed well and I’m sure her publicist is aware of these things.  Kim herself is either not very aware, or uses the lack of awareness to promote herself further.

Whichever way it plays out, we need to understand how our self awareness could play out should our BlackBerries suddenly cease working.

Fear of Techno-Grief and the Competitive Nature of the Market

Blackberry’s downward spiral in the mobile market has manifest itself in a very strange way.  We now get into arguments about which device is best.  The media talks about companies being the next ‘this company’ or ‘that company.’  The fear has become so palpable that even users are becoming ingrained into the battle.  We at UTB began as an attack blog and I suspect that it was a reaction to Techno-Grief.  Over the years which followed, the company has made moves to come out of the downward spiral.  Some moves where positive, some negative.  We are seeing BlackBerry turn themselves into a software company which makes mobile devices.  Kim K may indeed be the last celebrity holdout of BBOS.  We reached out to her via twitter, as did many.

As with many forms of grief, it is the fear of loss which makes the impact seem greater.  In all my dealings with technology I seek to maintain a balance between what I have and what is coming.  At a funeral service I always talk about the positives of letting go.  In letting go we can shed a skin which is no longer beneficial to us.  The biggest problem with mobility has been having the right cables to connect you to fixed devices.  Now the biggest issue is having the battery life to enable you to get through the day.  We no longer look at mobility the way we did.

To Sum Up…

What this event shows even the most hardened celeb-sceptic is that while the emotion of techno-grief can have a meaningful reason for existence, there is a time and place for processing such emotions.  With the advent of social media, we have been given an inappropriate access to soap boxes for our grief.  These soapboxes only serve the business community who can then use the trends to know how to best market their products.

Let us look to this event as a lesson in going forward.  Whatever happens in the future for mobile devices, there will always been another device waiting for us to bond with.  There will always be another paradigm to move on to.  I hope that this will help us to temper our responses without reacting to our grief.  We can acknowledge business decisions make us feel, but the bottom line is that there’ll be a new phone and a new day.  DTEK50 not your cup of tea?  Support it anyway and await that next device which helps you move past the grief of feeling disconnected.


Chap has been a BlackBerry user since 2009 when he picked up his trusty new Torch 9800. Since then he has been about all things BlackBerry keeping tabs on the Australian market. As a hobby he also supports an Australian Aged Care organisation as their in-house spiritual practitioner.

  • Nayalm

    Thanks @Chaplain_Clancy for this article.
    Food for the Brain.

  • Blackjack

    Thought provoking! I think her grief could be easily cured with BlackBerry Classic, the Bold++ (!) In fact her grief would be changed to joy!

  • Bobert_123