Whenever my iPhone vibrates or beeps, I get anxious. Whenever I see an email notification on the upper right corner of my MacBook screen, I get increasingly stressed. Whenever I hear the ding from Facebook Messenger, I just want to close out of the Google Chrome browser. Although it is validating that I am needed and wanted, I disdain the idea of that technology is becoming an extension of myself. This feeds into the dangerous hunger of validation from peers, and the need to taint our lives to make it appeal to the public eye. I cannot tell you how many times I post a Facebook status or Instagram a picture just because I’m feeling depressed. It is as if every “like” or comment I get will give me an ounce of happiness. I filter pictures as if it can cast a filter of brightness and optimism onto my actual life. This artificial happiness flees as soon as it comes, as it is built upon an unsteady and phony foundation. This addiction to connectivity is the most dangerous of all, but only a few see the death trap.
Ironically, this need for connectivity and public validation forces me to disconnect from myself. Seeing snippets of my life on social media creates a sense of detachment from my life, as I know it. It is as if I am viewing the details of someone else’s life. The physical gap between the laptop screen and me transforms into a much larger gap between my private self and my public self. I see someone else in those selfies and statuses I post, a tamed monster. Most of the time, that person is unrecognizable. I know her life backwards and forward, better than anyone else, but through those posts, she feels like a stranger. She is extremely close to me, but I am unable to touch her. She is a cheerleader, but I’m just the girl next door.
But I am slowly digging myself out of this technological existential crisis. I found the beauty in New York City MTA subway rides. I deeply appreciate the fact that the posters are very much lying when it says Wi-Fi is provided in subway trains. While I see people’s faces of extreme boredom or faces of frantic anxiousness when their cellphone signals drop, I cannot be more relieved. Those 15- to 45-minutes of no texts, emails or notifications grant me a sense of mindfulness that I cannot find anywhere else. And I growl when my phone vibrates at the short moments of connectivity at some subway stops.
Sure, I could always just turn my phone off or activate the “Do Not Disturb” mode, but I feel guilty actively disconnecting myself from the world, when the wireless connection is still intact. That’s too much power in my hands. However, in subway trains, the power to disconnect is not in my hands, but rather in the underdevelopment of the subway world. Those 15-45 minutes are the proper doses for me to be alone with my thoughts and myself. Any longer than that, I cannot be with myself, and need to silence my thoughts by blasting music through my earphones. Also, if I’m disconnected for any longer, I will get anxious because I’m unreachable and god forbid something happened to my friends or family. But during those 15-45 minutes, I keep the earphones plugged into my ears without music playing (to signal to other people that I am unavailable), and I think my deepest thoughts. And in those thoughts, I see my candid self, unfiltered and unpolished.