When did we get so codependent? I sit at my desk, in front of my computer, with my cell phone inches from my hand and a desk phone arm’s reach away. I can text, email, facebook, tweet, tumblr (tumble? I don’t know how to verbalize this), ichat, instant message, google hangout, call or turn around and talk to one of my coworkers and I’m glued, glued, glued to these things that tether me to the world I live in.
The irony of blogging about my codependence on the people who appear as names or numbers on my screen is not lost on me.
This is not a new topic, here or elsewhere, but it appears fresh each time I return to this soil that feels as foreign as any other for days after my last plane touches down. I’m still living within those days, in which everything feels like a staged play of my life and I’m waiting for the curtain to rise on another scene I recognize better.
I refreshed my twitter feed after I wrote that paragraph and my gut writhed like the tiny snake I almost stepped on when I pulled into my driveway last night. Unlike the snake, I have no desire to follow the feeling. I want it gone from me, like I want to be freed from these ties that bind me, like I want the endless barrage of contact to stop as desperately as I despise my own inclination toward it.
A story: Twenty-odd teenagers, two other adults and I spent almost three weeks in Italy and Greece on a National Geographic Student Expedition this past month, and our wifi connectivity was unpredictable at best. And I felt the loss like a fresh wound bleeds, at first. Loneliness barraged me, when I couldn’t share my experiences with my feeds. In my quieter moments, when we went to bed at night and had only our own selves to contend with in the city-seeping silence, I stared at my dark-screened cell phone and wondered what the world was doing without me.
But during the dazzling light of day, I wasn’t tempted to talk to anyone but the students walking beside me, their feet falling on the same stones as mine, our lives inextricably intertwined. We didn’t need a password to share a gelato on a side street of Salerno, or a little wedge-shaped signal to sing along to a ukelele song on a Capri ferry. I felt unshackled. I felt free. I didn’t miss what I’d left behind, because for once, the web, that world, felt far away.
Talk to me, with your moist, red mouth.
I want to see your teeth flashing and feel your breath on my skin.
How many of our friends do we know only as an assortment of letters on a glowing screen?
“I don’t want to hear from you until the end of the day,” I told a friend of mine, who’s at a conference in New Orleans for the week. I’m jealous of his distance because he has an excuse to be apart from the insular world technology has created out of this fascinating planet of ours. I don’t want to hear from him because I don’t want him to break that bubble or I want him to know how precious it is to be alone with yourself in a world when solitude is increasingly shunned.
When I think about my own gut-level need for the screens that surround me, I wonder if we’ve lost the art of independence. If we really know ourselves anymore, because we spend every second tied to everyone else and someone’s always there to tell you the numbers that mean you’re worth something.
I don’t want to fill my idle moments with clicking, refreshing, with baring my button-dappled soul to strangers.
I want to close my eyes and listen to my own breathing.
And feel compelled to tell no one how it sounds.
This is a public pledge to a private promise. I will make my relationships more real. I will engage in coffee dates that have a scent, long walks under trees that dapple our arms with sun that burns. I will find paper ways to fill my days, write letters on my typewriter with ink that smears and stamps that cost cents to buy, sense to send. I will regress into an age that I hope still feels natural to a generation that doesn’t remember a world without social media. Because that kind of social makes me feel like a cracked shell, with my yolk exposed to a world that doesn’t know me at all.
I want a life that leaves a mark on my body, my mind. That don’t need electric permission to run.