• The Washington Post.


Brittany Lofton spots them all the time: teens and college students clutching their beat-up cellphones, with screens so cracked that spider-web-like patterns creep across the glass.

Sure, the screen’s razor-like shards make reading text messages and taking photos super blurry, not to mention slightly painful.

But that’s part of the appeal: Introducing the cracked cellphone screen, which raises the bar by lowering it. Think of it as the tech generation’s ripped jeans or unwashed hair. Unshaven faces. Low-riding jeans. Some young people say a cracked screen gives you a sort of street cred, like you’ve been through some real-life stuff. It’s tough, subversive and just kind of cool.

It’s that age-old teenage narrative: the desire to define your identity. In this generation, the awkward tumble toward independence is personified in one slim device, which also happens to hold a teen’s entire social life.

“It’s this total trend, because it’s not like we’re rushing out to get them fixed,” smirks Lofton, 23, who works at a bookstore in Bethesda, Maryland. “A cracked screen is, like, this really cool scar.”

“Plus, it’s a great conversation starter,” chimed in her friend and co-worker Samantha Lasky, also 23.

As in?

“How did you crack your cellphone? …”

Lofton and Lasky, both graduates in psychology, said they see cracked screens as a “form of self-expression.”

They whip out their phones and dial up websites selling the latest cracked-screen wallpaper and pre-cracked screen savers.

These are not as cool as a real cracked phone, they say. But they are funny and are used to dupe parents.

A variation of the cracked front screen is the busted-up back cover, which can be tricked out by coloring in the cracks. Done with care, it’s made to look like a rainbow of stained glass.

“You just a need a red and blue marker and maybe a yellow highlighter. Then, you color in the glass, and it looks really cool,” said Julian Shadding, 17, from Hyattsville, Maryland, who dropped his iPhone while walking his dog.

“But enjoy that cut on your finger,” said Trevor Lyman, 27, co-owner of Cracked MacScreen Repair Team in Washington.

He says that cracked cellphones have become popular partly because they are so expensive to repair. The psychology goes something like this, he says: You break your phone. You can’t afford to fix it. You’re kind of embarrassed that you did it.

“So maybe, you don’t want to ask your parents for money,” Lyman said. “So, you tell yourself, I’m gonna be badass with a broken phone.”

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