Part of I&T Today’s “Lighter Side” Series
To mark my 30th trip around the sun, I resolved to once and for all quit tobacco. Also: hunt down my credit score, own simultaneous pairs of brown shoes, and socialize.
My employment status (freelancing from my living room) and lifestyle (no comment) suit my disposition – remote. Many of my childhood hours were spent alone, and as an adult I want neither the commute nor the contrived cordiality of corporate careering. Work-life balance? My apartment’s amenities feature books, Rosetta Stone, and a chin-up bar. I just watched Donnie Darko, then had a banana, and did laundry. Made perfect sense to me.
Sure. I’m profoundly lonely.
So I called around and recently reconnected (drank) with an old buddy. Enjoyed some good laughs. As is the new normal, when his girlfriend came up in conversation, the next thing to do was to take out the phone and show her off. Battery waning, he asked if he could use my phone. No sweat. I drew my Samsung Gusto flip phone out of my pocket.
I may have smirked at him. I don’t remember. He called me a tool, to which I cocked my head. “You’re just doing it,” he explained (“it” meaning owning a flip phone, I guess) “to make a statement, and it’s boring.” “What statement?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said, but you’re the writer. I’m sure it’s grand.”
My Irish-Catholic parents had tried to raise me as they’d been raised (in the 1950s). They regulated and/or prohibited video games, music, television. The blockade on computers wasn’t lifted until 2004. Theirs, like many other old-fashioned parenting strategies, spawned an individual at once both impeccable and bizarre — I learned my letters, stayed fit, and appreciated interpersonal communication. But I was AWOL from AOL, MySpace, and Gen-Y in general.
In my senior year of prep school in Danvers, MA, I could count on one hand everyone I knew, including myself, without a phone. Friends by that point had long been addressing me as John Proctor, Arthur Miller’s pious protagonist in The Crucible whose real-life counterpart was hanged for witchcraft one town over in 1692.
Then, for my 18th birthday, my parents graced me with my very first cell phone. And, less than a month later, I was adjusting the settings on my very first girlfriend. I was like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber discovering the moon landing.
So now I’m a millennial who, for the most part, doesn’t know Periscope from Pinstagram. Good, right? Except I’m more akin to my 90 year-old grandmother than to my sister born five years after me. In preserving that old-school sociability so many experts believe social media has taken from us, I’d forsaken something else: society. Like the Giant Panda, rather than evolve, I’d prefer to eat bamboo alone and starve. I think that’s what’s going on here. Beyond the range of my comfort zone’s router, there awaits a hell of other people, and unsecured networks.
Well, that’s the last time I reconnect with old friends for a while. In the meantime, got a couple OKCupid dates in the pipeline. Don’t much care for the PC interface, but the app is just so impersonal, and I don’t meet many women at work.
Rob Mills has made around $1,150 working as a writer in Boston.
Top photo courtesy of Julian Carvajal.