He felt phantom tingles when the phone was not at his side. Clay recalled that in January, in the spirit of resolution, he’d tried leaving his phone in another room while he slept. But that was how he did most of his newspaper reading, and staying informed was as worthy a resolution.

This quotation from Chapter 11 highlights Clay’s addiction to his phone. At this point, he has physical symptoms of withdrawal if his phone isn’t with him. Earlier in this passage, Clay unlocks his phone without even thinking about it, in a kind of reflex action. In this way, his phone addiction is similar to his nicotine addiction. When his New Year’s resolution to keep his phone in another room failed, he made up a new resolution that required him to have his phone with him at all times. This reveals a weakness of character and a lack of commitment. Ultimately, Clay recognizes how dependent he is on technology, and feels overwhelmed by how helpless he is without an internet connection. He realizes he cannot make decisions and protect his family on his own. This discovery leads him to cede authority to G. H., who is more decisive, even without technology.

She’d pull and pull and pull at the screen, waiting for the connection to be established, waiting to see what she had missed. ‘You’ll believe it when you can see it on your phone.’ Ruth didn’t even blame her for this. All these years debating the objectivity of fact had done something to everyone’s brains.

In this quotation from Chapter 17, Amanda is honest enough to admit that she is just as dependent on her phone as her children are on theirs. Amanda knows what phone withdrawal feels like from her experience flying. Being forced to put her phone on airplane mode is difficult enough for her, but in that situation, she could at least anticipate when connectivity would be restored. Now, with no idea of when or even if they will receive a phone signal again, she knows that the discomfort she is experiencing is withdrawal. Rose is sympathetic to Amanda in this moment. She recognizes that society is dependent on phones to provide reassurance of what is true. She believes this is the result of debating concrete, objective facts which has made it impossible for people to come to their own conclusions.

I can’t do anything without my phone. I’m a useless man.

In Chapter 37, Clay’s guilt about not helping the Spanish-speaking woman he saw the day before overwhelms him and he confesses to G. H. that he left her behind. Clay blames his actions on his lack of a functioning phone. He couldn’t take her into the car, he reasons, because he didn’t have Google Translate and couldn’t have explained why he was driving in circles. He was lost because he didn’t have a GPS signal. When he makes this confession, Clay is trying to draw a map to help him find his way between the house, the hospital, and the town, but his map is useless. By contrast, G. H. knows the surrounding roads by memory because he is from a generation that is not wholly dependent on technology. Without his phone, Clay is unable to navigate the physical world, but he also cannot find his moral compass.