Do you know what’s weird about not having your cellphone on you in this day and age (aside from the fact that, like some kind of humanoid dinosaur I still call it a cellphone instead of just phone)? Everything. I can’t speak for everyone, but in all likelihood I speak for most in saying that my phone is often used to mitigate the need to concentrate on the world around me. Why would I if I can be anywhere on the internet at a moment’s notice? Yes, I’ve done the thing where I’ve almost missed my TTC stop, floor on an elevator or supermarket clerk (when in a busy line) because I was online instead of IRL. Today though, not so much. I realised after leaving my girlfriend’s house that my phone was still plugged into the wall. With no way to get back into the house or contact her on my person, I shrugged and continued on my way to work.
Going through my morning routine felt so bizarre. I was in some kind of temporal limbo. No idea what time I left the house meant I didn’t know if I was super early or running late. I got my coffee and just waited like a dummy while it was being made. I spent my streetcar ride looking at the passengers around me instead of catching up on the inevitable post election/Star Wars trailer reveal that would have consumed my Facebook news feed. I made the snap decision to get off at an earlier stop to find breakfast vittles (and forage for more cheap tuna cans. The 12 cans I bought last night were insufficient), but had no idea if I was running late or not. By the time I reached work (20 minutes early), my inbox was empty. I felt so separated from the world around me even though strangely I was more present in it than I would’ve been otherwise.
As far as my workday goes, I’m far ahead. I haven’t been distracted all day by that blinking white light. No interruptions means I’ve just gotten down to business. I feel less stressed. I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out the things that I haven’t read, probably because I ultimately know they don’t matter. It’s not like the internet hasn’t been in front of me since I arrived in the office, but it feels different. It’s strange how the mobile connection means whether we’re aware of it or not, our internet experience is catered around others. We view links that other people send us, find ourselves pulled into conversations with friends of friends. Other people’s statuses direct our brain in certain ways and they spark things we’re compelled to look into further. I know my Google searches vary depending on the stimulus ahead of me, due to the fact that I don’t spend all my time on the compellingly convoluted McDonaldland wiki. I’m not saying there’s anything positive or negative attached to your experience varying with other people’s involvement, I’m just saying it happens.
So how has my experience varied without foreign input? It’s lessened, that’s for sure. I’ve checked a few pop culture sites, news sites, podcasts and Magic the Gathering sites. C’est ça. There’s no urgency in my surfing the web (STILL A DUMB METAPHOR). My internet patterns are normally fuelled by the desire to be on top of things, to have an opinion, to engage in debate or discussion. I want to know that I’m coming at things from an informed place, whether or not they’re important to me. Innately I’ve got no desire to bring a balloon sword to the melee of social media. I’ll get pummelled. So maybe it’s fear more so than interest. The fear of losing face in the digital social sphere. The fear that my opinions will be seen as irrelevant. The fear that I’m the summation of what I put out into the world and if that’s to wane, my relevance will erode with it (good thing this site isn’t publicly available or anything, right? – ed).
How weird is it that these are concerns? The notion that just because we can be connected, we need to be? On some level I’m well aware that none of this shit matters one iota, but on another I’ve sculpted it to be part of my identity. It’s the idea that the approval of others on how we behave is an essential component of our lives, but we’ve expanded the scale exponentially. With that has come a strange new anxiety of how we’re putting ourselves out into the world.
I guess what I’m asking is this: Should I be worried that I admitted I still call it a cellphone?