Day two took place with three unconscious attempts to check FB, a confirmation of that earlier theory that checking our social apps has become part of our muscle memory. Give me a similar smartphone and I’d probably be doing the same thing, even if the phone weren’t mine.
It ended with a splurge, too: in bed already, after that 24-hour gap without checking my social apps, half-asleep, I reached out across the bed where my phone was, as if embracing a lover lying beside me. But there I was, instead of looking at someone’s face, I was peering into my phone, face aglow not with postcoital satisfaction but with my phone’s blue light. I was counting likes, retweets, not the soft kisses that one often gets on the forehead during the tender after-hours of sex; measuring virality – yes, I am aware that my posts do get shared with regularity, certainly with above-average metrics – and not weighing romantic options.
Which human need does this desire to be always present, alway online respond to? Why is persistent, an addiction of sorts?
I have lately become self-aware that I reach for my phone when I feel socially anxious, which happens quite a lot. I can manage small talks when it is about the grim-and-determined subjects that I am involved in, from work to my advocacies, which overlap, I must admit. But in social settings, talking about these can only deliver so much; topics end up meandering to unfamiliar social terrains, such as fun, or having a relationship. I am one of those who accept that life-work balance is a myth, so I understand that my share in conversations almost always diverge towards the intense and stressful subjects, which either ends the conversation or compels me to control myself, at which point my hand goes to my pocket to grab my phone. Then I get into a half-trance, counting 140 characters, word-smithing for posts that will resonate, that are relevant, for soundbites – finally not a round peg trying to fit into a square hole, but a crafty rabbit merrily sliding, descending into a rabbithole.