I open my phone mainly out of nervous reflex and I look, first, at Instagram, checking my messages more attentively than I check my newsfeed, and, whenever I am checking my newsfeed, I’m way more interested in the memes and TikTok videos than I am in the updates of my friends’ lives; and then, after checking those messages, I go to Hinge, the dating app, and then I check my email, and then from my email I go to CNN, and then after that I just close everything.
Then five or eight minutes later I run through the whole cycle again.
Lately this has felt pretty lonesome and lame.
I suddenly feel something pointedly uninteresting and emotionally deflating about even the appearance of these apps on my home screen.
I work part-time at a college tutoring center where I look at students’ argumentative speeches and essays and, as you’d expect, a lot of these kids write about the inherent value of detaching oneself from technology and often go so far as to suggest a kind of moral value in being the sort of person who prefers staring at the ocean to staring at a screen–which I don’t think is true, and which can be kinda irksome, actually (their argument can), when you consider that every single one of these kids is of course addicted to their gadgets, same as I am, same as you are, not because we’re weak, or too imaginatively compromised to see the beauty in a grasshopper or a tree stump, but because the world has crawled inside these devices and thus, to remain in touch with it, we have to go inside them too.
Occasionally I’ll see some rapturous post about someone like the director Christopher Nolan, who doesn’t have a cell phone, refuses to own a cell phone, derides the use of cell phones–and the person who’s posting about him will say, “Yeah, that’s right, we should live without our cell phones.”
Dude, if I was a millionaire artist with bottomless financial backing, I’d probably spend way less time on my phone, too. I’d be in libraries and bars, beachfronts and boats, I’d be in various beds with various people, reading all morning and shagging all day and then gab gab gabbing and gorging and dancing all night.
But I’m broke!
I’ve got places to be!
And, thus, I very often feel agitated, or lonesome, and this compels me to pull out my phone for a couple minutes of reprieve, whether into something funny, or interesting, or something that reaffirms the idea that I matter in another person’s life (“Did anyone message me via text? How about Instagram? How about Hinge? How about AOL? How about Gmail? How about Twitter? How about Whatsapp?”).
Maybe, then, it’s some kinda Pavlovian response: I whip out my phone whenever I’m feeling some subtle kind of sadness; and thus, whenever I whip out my phone, it reminds me of–and thereby resurrects–a subtle kind of sadness.
Whatever the case: I’m on my way to the coffee shop and I’m gonna try to leave my phone off.