I repeat one of my “on the tape” diatribes so often that whenever I start, I swear I can see a tiny piece of my boyfriend’s soul desiccating and floating up to Boyfriend Heaven.
See, I’ve got this phone case I’m *really* enthusiastic about, and it’s slightly odd-looking so people ask me about it pretty frequently. The case is called Loopy, and it has two holes where you jam in a rubber strap, forming a loop across the back of your phone. The case and loops, of course, come in 8 billion color and pattern combinations, because if people aren’t able to endlessly customize and splash slogans across every item they own, how will anyone know they’re a wine mom from Louisiana who’s curious about socialism and has frequent headaches?
Anyway. I bought my first Loopy in 2017 and I’m on my third. (My black-loop-with-marble-case combo shows people I’m serious but fashionable, and over the age of 22.) My whole spiel essentially involves the usefulness of the loop: Hook one thumb through it and you’ll still have both hands free to hold two giant iced coffees! Hang the loop off a branch if you need to keep it above a raging river or something! But the most useful feature is how, if your phone is sitting face-down on a table, you can just stick one finger through the loop and pick it up.
And pick it up.
And pick it up.
And pick it up.
I picked up my phone 95 times yesterday. On Friday 5/14, I picked it up a record 130 times.
I’ve often felt a stupid pride about the fact that I don’t walk around the house with my phone in my hand. Imagine being one of those people! The horror! But I’m still the person you can count on to view your text within about 20 mins of you hitting send. (Whether I respond right away is another thing entirely.) My friend Jenny, who runs the absurdly wonderful clothing brand Late to the Party said she can gauge how much Instagram is throttling her traffic by how long it takes me to like her posts. Essentially: I’m so connected that me not liking her posts immediately is a canary-in-a-coalmine situation, clicks-wise.
My excuse for my aggressive online-ness has long been that I have to be, for my job. And that’s truer now than ever—as a person who oversees content for a site and a daily newsletter, NOT knowing that Jennifer Aniston admitted she had a crush on David Schwimmer during the early filming of Friends is a professional liability.
But the actual truth is that job or no job, I’m enthralled by ingesting tons of media—I yearn to be up-to-date. I love listening to Las Culturistas while I wash my face at night, and I love sending my mom TikToks, and I love Twitter more than I love certain family members. (You know who you are.) But where’s the line between pleasure and compulsion? Sometimes when I’m eating fries, God’s most perfect food, I reach that moment where I realize my stomach is full but keep pushing through for another hit on the lever. I have to get to the end.
In college, there were about two years when I opted out of participating in pop culture and current events. First, I studied abroad for a year in Tokyo, pre-smartphones. I emailed friends from the computer lab on schooldays, and called my parents every weekend while standing in a glass-walled payphone on the street, via a personal 1-800 number they set up. (If you’re under the age of 30 and reading this, it’s going to feel like you’re running your hands along petroglyphs, sorry.)
The next year, I was really pretentious, mostly hated music made by machines, and only owned a tiny tube TV with a built-in VCR that was disconnected from regular channels. [Cut to a shot of me with Bettie Page bangs, stoned in my room watching a tape of Duck Soup. Truly insufferable.] But when I rejoined the world, I rejoined it hard. Now I pick up my smartphone an average of 80-plus times a day.
I don’t feel like I can opt out of this cycle anytime soon, which both suits my personality and gives me a nauseated, extra-large fries feeling. I marvel at people whose professional responsibilities don’t involve hitting refresh on the NYT’s trending stories page. But I don’t know how to pivot out of what I’ve specialized in for so much of my life. And I don’t know whether drastically altering my career path and my connection to technology would even end my urge to get to the “end” of things—to understand better, to consume more. I’m an insatiable researcher, and a little key to all earthly knowledge lives in my pocket. Hand, meet glove.
Our current rental house has two fig trees, two cherry trees, three blueberry bushes, and dozens of wild strawberry plants that dot the embankment in the front yard. There’s a small patch of dirt where I’m growing tomatoes and chives, and rows of hip-high irises that show off for a few weeks annually. The squirrels are going nuts right now, and if I walk outside quietly I can usually spot a rabbit or two, trying to steal bites of the bounty.
In the rare moments of my day where I’m not forced—by myself or an employer—to gaze into a glowing screen, I’ve been standing outside among them. It’s simplistic and corny to say they’re more “real” than the other parts of my life. They’re no more real than the details of Chrissy Teigen’s cookware line being pulled from the shelves of Target. But as a counterbalance, they do the trick. Sometimes I even leave my phone inside.
And for good measure:
the most recent Eurovision on the Peacock app and I am furious that this is the first year Americans have had official access to this absolute solid-gold programming. I could talk about Eurovision for at least 2 hours straight, but for now I’ll leave you with a clip of Daði og Gagnamagnið, the contestants from Iceland, my absolute favorites.