It’s an idiosyncrasy of Los Angeles youth – driving far to do overpriced things so we can check our social media feeds.
I am back in town for the holidays, and we’ve had the month-long “We have to try this new place when you’re back in town” conversation just to break the school and work monotony. In that very expert internalizing way, I blink across the table at my two friends scrolling through their respective Facebook newsfeeds. I breathe deep into the space between my collarbones where air is drawn for words but is frequently swallowed to make lumps. Breathe, I tell myself facing two pairs of downcast eyes reflecting iPhone screens, and wait, wait.
Most of the time, I feel like a salmon swimming upstream — looking up at everyone else in the train car looking down. Cute 20-somethings have their eyes locked on phones in hand, slouched shoulders, broad backs facing passing scenes. Public transportation is obviously so boring for us. We are those startup Millennials, pretending to be constantly purposeful in that accidentally successful and under-qualified way, still dressing like we would for college classes, backpack and all. We must appear cool and unreachable. We must not actually care at all.
We are Harry who interrupts everyone at our cheap Thai dinner to announce that the fantasy football team he has been rooting for has won. Who then quietly resumes slurping tom yum, scrolling things under the table, and ignoring everyone. We are Karl who is lying next to us in bed, talking about something in distracted slowness texting a Claire who is just a friend, just a friend. We are the cute guy wearing a North Carolina sweatshirt in Pig n’ Whistle the night the Dodgers played the Mets for the World Series bid. Who was so disastrously cute sitting by himself by the pool table, gaze lost in cyber goings-on. We are Caroline Wallis Snapchatting lunch instead of eating it. We are all of these things, in whatever capacity.
We are distracted and lonely. Perhaps we distract ourselves to combat the loneliness. Rather than put ourselves out there and assume risk, we have anonymity at our fingertips guaranteeing risk-free connection, or whatever we call it. We might not be able to make eye contact at a bar, on a train or in a dense urban center, but we have successfully convinced ourselves that we are not lonely, we are merely unreachable. We have successfully convinced ourselves that in a parallel environment, someone is staring back at us and our auto-pilot input and actually cares.
I am learning to embrace loneliness — perhaps this is the only way to come to grips with being a member of that high performing, impressively creative generation that exists only on the internet. I have stopped trying to get Harry and George and North Carolina’s attention, and feel that I have grown into a much richer, better version of myself in the process. Perhaps loneliness is better than the sense of “connection” sought by my generation. I can certainly tell you that it is simpler. I have more time to myself that would otherwise be spent talking to a wall. I spend less money on Uber and Lyft rides. I am satisfied not wasting time looking through photos and statuses I will instantaneously forget.
I am looking up, perhaps at you.