The problem with dating your phone

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“I love texting! It’s so much more impersonal than talking face to face.” – a text from me to my friend Tara
 In the movie “Her,” a man in Los Angeles dates his smartphone.
It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
The movie is set in the future, but not that far into the future, in a time when people feel more comfortable and connected with their pocket-size computers than with other humans.

In the movie, lonely and morose Theodore Twombly is going through a divorce.
Ironically, his job is writing personal, computer-“handwritten” letters to people — letters of love and affection and genuineness. He has a real gift for communicating other people’s feelings, but he’s not good at communicating his own, until he meets Samantha.
Samantha is an OS1, a computer operating system, only with the ability to learn, develop and evolve. She and the other OS1s are designed to adapt to their owners’ individual needs and personalities, thus making them perfect companions.

As Theodore spends nearly all his time talking with Samantha, he eventually falls in love with “her.” He takes her everywhere, slipping his smartphone/computer in his shirt pocket with the device’s camera exposed so Samantha can “see” as they’re on their dates together.
At first, Theodore is reluctant to admit to friends and co-workers that he’s dating his phone, but eventually he does, which strangely isn’t all that strange to them. He and Samantha even double date with another (human) couple.
When Samantha tells Theodore she’s in love with him, he’s ecstatic, as happy as any man in love can be.

But then, Samantha starts to distance herself from him, much like a human girlfriend might do. She starts talking with other OS1s and outgrows Theodore, which troubles him. Whereas once she was always there for him 24/7, she now disappears for periods of time, which panics him.

In one eye-opening scene, Theodore is out walking the city’s elevated walkway and he notices everyone is connected to his or her own digital/computer device. He asks Samantha if she talks to anyone else besides him, if she has a relationship with anyone else. She tells him yes.
“How many?” he asks, appalled when she says she’s talking to 8,316 other people at the same time she talks to him.
“Are you in love with any of them?”
When she tells him she’s in love with 641 other people, he’s devastated. He wanted, he thought, he was the only one, that what they had was special and uniquely theirs, as it would be if they were both human.

Theodore is content to continue loving Samantha without a body, but Samantha wants more. She wants a body so she can experience humanity and true relationship. However, it’s the one thing she cannot have. She even tries using a human surrogate, but it doesn’t work. Theodore wants “her,” Samantha.

A Christianity Today movie reviewer says a theme of “Her” is incarnation. He says it points to Christ who chose to reveal God to us by wrapping himself in flesh, to become one of us with a body and soul, to live among us, to eat and sleep, to hunger and thirst, to laugh and cry and die like we do.
God could have sent an OS, but he didn’t. He sent his Son. Because he did, we can have a real relationship with him.

“We are incarnate beings, physical bodies within a physical world,” the movie reviewer writes. “By the end of ‘Her,’ Theodore knows it…We were made for bodily, not digital, presence with one another.”
The movie ends with the touching image of Theodore and his friend Amy sitting on a bench together, Amy’s head on Theodore’s shoulder.

It reminded me that God once said, “It’s not good for man to be alone,” and made the man a human companion. He didn’t give him an iPad.
We were made for human connection, as messy and difficult as it may be. It’s why the church exists, so we can, as my pastor says, “walk to heaven together.” It’s not good for man (or woman) to be alone.
Note to self: Call Tara and meet her for coffee. Leave phone at home.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.