It read: “We are never alone now.”
I did not know the individual who said this to me. We had only exchanged fragments of sentences, which had confirmed that we were both in bed. In another time, in another life altogether, if these words were directed at you by anyone, in any context, alarm bells would sound. The associations of someone implicating you in a kind of coordinate pact, a theoretical superimposition of localities, wed together forever—even the dearest friend, the closest lover, the parent or child who wishes to establish a communion that transcends the limitations of space, time, and individuality—on some level this ignites a panicked, knee-jerk objection from the (not entirely) subconscious:
What do you mean “we” and “never”? I have things to do alone; and I frequently want to be. You can shove off with any sort of idyllic, timeless conjunction! I am quite certain that solitude is part of the deal. The mass of particles that collectively assert that I am me, and that me is an I, is never going to be superimposed and integrated with a yours—you can stay over there. I don’t want you beneath my skin—and I certainly don’t need you lurking about all the time. I need space to do my secret dance, with only the cold, impassive universe of things to stand sentinel around me.
But then I realized he wasn’t addressing me individually. He was articulating a reality that our culture is enmeshed in: the constant access to conversation; the conduits open to other minds perpetually ready to receive.
I really haven’t misplaced my phone in months.
Being together and being in contact have become two radically different things. States of existence that once needed specific circumstances to be true have become unmoored from the foundations of physical position. Wandering intimacies are constantly an option. If you don’t want to disconnect from other minds, from the semiotic telepathy of text and tone, you are, practically, free to make that choice. Within the boundaries of a wired and wireless society, sleep is the only place you need go where you are actually unreachable—at least until the alarm, or the beep, or the bell, or the hum reaches in and fishes you out of unconsciousness before plugging you back into the network.
I suppose many people live like this now. The individual on the other side of the profile I had said “hello” to was stating a fact of life as it stands for millions of people. This was not the earnest assertion of an unhinged mind, desperate to establish an inseparable metaphysical partnership; it was someone who has acquiesced to the forceful suggestion that if you turn it off you’re really tuning out of reality as we know it.
I am unreasonably glad that some part of me remains analog.