1802: Phone

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[*disables social networking accounts*] [*social isolation increases*] Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?
Title text: [*disables social networking accounts*] [*social isolation increases*] Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?


When someone asks you if you want to go for a walk they often expect to have a conversation, while enjoying both the exercise, the fresh air and the company. Thus any disturbance not related to the walk is not welcome. Going for a walk is often seen as a way to relax from all the daily stress, as it takes the walkers away from work and chores.

Cueball agrees to go for a walk, but not to all the associated expectations. His first instinct is to bring along his smartphone, though rather than call it such, he opts for a lengthy description detailing all the functions he intends to use. He describes the phone as a device that gives him a continuous (24/7) stream of information, much of which is often out of context. The stream contains people's opinions, context-free but scary news, and other random stimuli. Conspicuously, long-distance communication (ostensibly the primary function of a smartphone) is not listed. This may be a sign that Cueball is addicted to his phone.

The stream of opinions mentioned could be from news or bloggers but it could also just be from his friends on social media platforms. News stories that are shared on social media are often scary, which becomes even worse because news outlets are likely to use a title that exaggerates the topic to create a fear reaction. The random emotional stimuli could be from many things such as text messages/emails and pictures of kittens and babies on social network, and shared internet memes or viral videos. All things that could cause a quick shift in emotions.

As if all this was not enough, Cueball even says he will also take his spare battery, so he won't risk that his constant feed could be interrupted, because he will not be able to recharge his phone during the walk. All in all, his choice and constant need for staying updated and being online violates all the usual expectations, that his friend could have expected from asking him out for a walk. Randall's fear of running out of power on his smartphone was earlier mentioned in 1373: Screenshot, where a low battery charge stresses him too much to realize it is someone else's screenshot, rather than his own phone that has a low charge. Since then he has made other references to his issue with low batteries in 1872: Backup Batteries and 1965: Background Apps

The title text shows it would be possible to take an action to avoid this feed. In the first bracket a person (could be Cueball or Randall) disables all his social networking accounts. Most of his news feed will thus disappear. But this leads to the next bracket which states that such a choice would lead to increased social isolation, since he will no longer be in contact with any of his online friends. In fact, today many people also get into contact with their "real" local friends through social media, so one might thus miss out on events like parties or get-togethers. In addition, his friends, not sharing his dislike for social media, may not understand his decision. All of this leads to the final sentence Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?


[Someone off-panel asks Cueball a question which he answers while walking to a small table with some items laying on it.]
Off-panel voice: Wanna go for a walk?
Cueball: Sure, just need to grab my device that feeds me a 24/7 stream of opinions, context-free scary world news, and random emotional stimuli.
Cueball: Plus a spare battery so the feed won't be interrupted.


  • This clearly refers back to the main comic, thus saying that it also feels bad to have this constant stream of input, which could often be disturbing. So there is no good choice listed in the comic, because it is bad to be completely offline, but being online all the time is also bad. And it is hard to find the right balance. This problem with finding the right balance between two things is related to the recent 1796: Focus Knob, where one thing was following the news too much the other not at all. In that comic it was impossible to follow the news without it getting too much.
  • A related comic was posted long ago with 77: Bored with the Internet. In this comic Cueball go for a walk to escape the internet, only to be thinking about the next post to make once back online.
  • This comic is also related to the recent comic 1773: Negativity, as both deal with the inability to escape the media during objectively peaceful pastimes. While in the former, the nature attacks Cueball with the types of comments he wishes to avoid, here, he brings along his phone even though it will ruin the goal of the walk he is going to take. Negativity seemed to be a kind of follow up on 1761: Blame where Cueball feels sad because of all the bad things that are happening, typically that which could be described as scary news, which in that case was posted by his friends on Facebook so Cueball blames his friends. This comic thus, for the third time in about three month, express a dislike for online societies and its reaction to lots of bad news, also refereed in other comics during those three months. (See more on this here.)
  • This is the second comic in a row where having access to the internet on a smartphone while out walking is a major part of the plot, the first being 1801: Decision Paralysis, where Randall mentions how access to the internet when having two similar options to choose from can cause a decision paralysis while he researches the best option.
  • Should not be confused with the other Phone comics from the xkcd Phone series, but generally smartphones is a recurring subject on xkcd.

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That was my first explanation I wrote from scratch so feel free to change stuff that is bad. note: someone else wrote the last bit I dont know who.XFez (talk) 14:39, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

I wrote last bit. My first from scratch edit too. I think that the spare battery is a portable battery pack. -- Mjychabaud22 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Hi XFez and Mjychabaud22, everyone is welcome to contribute. So, thanks for your work. Just be not too descriptive on things everybody can see.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:41, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

Though nowadays many smartphones have integrated (non-changeable) battery, there are some that still have battery that can be changed with a spare charged one.--JakubNarebski (talk) 17:59, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

No he says it is a spare battery. I have had that for my "older" phone because if I used it too much during a day, I would not have enough battery in the evening. --Kynde (talk) 18:44, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
Title text

The current explanation "...ends up feeling bad the whole walk" is not correct. The first two parts (in brackets) describe a fear about being disconnected from social interactions and the believe that a connection to the internet is essential. In the last part it is questioned why this ALSO feels bad. This implies that all those modern connections are not that bad at all. And: Maybe the brackets and the asterisks are a typo for some text formatting.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:15, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

Agree that the explanation is not complete. But I still believe that Randall thinks the constant stream of info is not good. But the alternative to isolate yourself is also not good. This is yet a relation to Blame and Negativity. You cannot live without social networking, but it will not make you happy anyway... I will try to rewrite it --Kynde (talk) 19:28, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
"Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?" ->> disconnecting feels ALSO bad. The comic says that the modern info stream is bad; but the title text says that without it's ALSO bad. So in this comic the title text goes not further but backwards to the initial pun.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:36, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
Not it says this also feels bad. So both the news feed and not being on-line feels bad. The pun is that you are also not happy if you disconnect from the feed that makes you unhappy. This fits well with the other sad comics posted since November.) --Kynde (talk) 20:03, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

Anyone else think the Friday comic tomorrow will evolve around Exoplanets after the NASA press conference? --Kynde (talk) 16:49, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

I was thinking/hoping the same thing or a what-if about it.XFez (talk) 14:44, 24 February 2017 (UTC)
But it was not to be, either. So this time I guessed wrong. But I guessed the one about 1633: Possible Undiscovered Planets. Nice Randall is not predictable :-) But by the way the most cool discovery related to Exoplanets so far... Maybe he will return to the subject when they know more, or just later when he get a good idea for a comic. --Kynde (talk) 19:51, 24 February 2017 (UTC)

@ Dgbrt. Why do you keep insisting that Blame is not relevant when this comic is against being online to receive bad news all the time, for instance from friends on Social media. Both Blame and Negativity belongs together, one follow the other. And this is indeed another comic that indicate that Randall is sick of the info he receives on-line just as those other two! It was also the second comic in a row that he mentions problems about being on-line all the time via phones, although for two different reasons. So why is that not relevant. I will put it in again, and then let me hear some reason why you delete it all the time instead of just writing not relevant. I did reply above, but you just deleted without giving a valid reason. I think it is relevant! And only you have deleted it, so don't say others obviously agree with you! --Kynde (talk) 19:45, 26 February 2017 (UTC)