I Swear I’m Not A Teenage Dirtbag

  • I have a cousin who has a young teen. He says she and her teen buddies never want to get together in person and hang out. They just hang out via their phones.
  • My own kid, if I let him, would stay on his iPad all damn day. I don’t even think he would pause to eat. He’d probably pause to use the bathroom.
  • If you look around on the city bus or metro rail, almost every single person will be consumed with their phones.
  • Sometimes I go to bars that the millenials frequent (not often because the young make me angry) and I’ll see friends hanging out but they’re not talking to each other; they’re communing with their phones.

I’m no better or different. I snuggled into my digital cocoon when I was taking the bus and metro for 8 years. I drive now so I can’t do that anymore because I’m not coordinated enough to pull that off and I don’t want my last moments to be delivering pizza in my beater.

I love technology. I love my phone. My phone has improved my life in many ways.

And it’s also fucked my life up in a lot of ways. I’m far from the first to say this new normal is not good for mankind.

I was at a great dinner last night with some good friends and I wasn’t talking too much. I was concentrating on writing my new blog post for the day. No one said anything to me about my antisocial behavior. But the more I tapped away the more I felt awkward and guilty about writing while in the middle of a big group conversation.

I don’t think millenials care about being rude by attaching themselves to their smartphones. I don’t think it’s even considered rude by them. Just as ghosting probably started out as a brutish act, it’s now pretty much a common occurrence.

But I am generation x so I remember a time that I was not even being allowed to pick up a landline phone during dinner. I felt bad about isolating myself. Especially among good friends.

But I wasn’t Snapchatting or instagramming like the millenials do. I was writing. And I have to write when inspiration hits; at the very least to jot down notes. I’ve lost some wonderful notions in just a few seconds if I don’t immediately write them down.

But I suppose my writing is any less antisocial. I mean if I had a small journal out and was scribbling away in the middle of the dinner table with an olde timey pen, the other diners would probably think it was odd. But maybe it might make me charmingly odd like a Wes Anderson movie. They might be more likely to interrupt me just because of the atypical behavior.

Justification, stop one: I can totally respond to people and pause whenever another human being says something that interests me or says something to me. I can multitask. And it’s not like people aren’t comfortable addressing people who are on their smartphones. It’s like the originally rude gesture of smartphoning among friends became unrude. And the originally rude gesture of interrupting someone while they are concentrating on something became unrude too.

The point of this lengthy diatribe is this: I’m not a teenage dirtbag snapchatting on my phone. I’m a middle aged scrub writing because I feel I have to and I want to and I feel bad when I don’t and it makes me happy and it’s one of the few things I can do with a modicum of competence. Any kind of art, no matter how shittily done, is a enervating pursuit for your soul. Trying to create something beautiful is something beautiful itself.

My new writing habit (which just celebrated its 7th month) has been opening up the non-blogging part of my writing brain too and that’s really exciting. Fiction and poetry and screenwriting are things that used to bring me so much joy. And now new, weird, fun ideas are starting to percolate and bubble to the surface. I mean, I’m not sure anybody else will like them but all that matters is that I do.

This is about me. This not about you.

My super earnest and obviously super important writing behavior should not be treated with the same contempt as sending a dick pic on Tinder.

But it’s not like I can hang a placard around my neck that says “I am not instagramming. I’m actually trying to write things that are more than 280 characters long”.

I’m not saying it’s world’s above vacant social media. It’s not like I assign a much more inherent value to blogging than to the social media apps I’m mocking here. For fucks sake, I routinely discuss comic book characters and funny animal gifs. Proust, I’m not.

I’m not a teenage dirtbag.

I know. I know. It still looks like I am. It’s walking and quacking like a duck so it must be.

That’s a bummer.

It took me 43 years and a disease that nearly killed me to figure that out that worrying about how I appear to others is a toxic waste of time.

Then why the fuck am I writing an entire post about being bummed about how my friends perceive my cell phone behavior?

I think it’s because life laid down tracks in my mind that carried ponderous trains full of self doubt and assumption, belching the dark black smoke of rage turned inwards. They churn over tracks that are nailed in with billion foot long spikes made of evil vibranium.

There are new roads in my mind now. They are hopeful and safe and they only release determination into the air. But I haven’t been able to stop the old metal mental health monsters from running the same routes they’ve been running for decades. But I don’t board them anymore. They still make sense to a lot of me. They resonate with the old me. The old me that’s clinging to life, hiding in the darkest corners of my ennui, plotting, determined to raise my personal hell again.

Or maybe all that bullshit is just bullshit and it’s as simple as I do care about what my friends think? It’s partially that but it’s not all that. At the end of the day, nowadays, following my truth overshadows making my friends happy. It never used to be that way.

I’m not a teenage dirtbag.

I’m just an asshole.

And there’s just a war in my head between two perspectives. The old and vicious and gigantic, full of sound and fury snarls from one side. But the new serene, fluid and unlimited song that’s playing louder than the old ever did is strapped and ready to fight.

I’m really confused. Cognitive dissonance is a motherfucker.

I’ll go think about this some more and get back to you.


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