There was a time when people were forced to interact with each other socially – on the train, on the bus, at the supermarket, in the doctor’s office. People would make small talk as they waited for other things to happen. Small talk is when you tell people how much you enjoyed that sandwich you just ate, and they tell you what their kids are doing in school, and you pretend to be enjoying yourselves while you both secretly pray for an end to it all.
Life before cell phones was a nightmare.
I’ve never been chatty with strangers. It’s not personal. Most people are just fine when you get to know them. But getting to know new people on the fly takes energy I just didn't budget for, and if I have to spend that energy on spontaneous small talk while I wait for a train, that means I have to borrow it from somewhere else, and that makes me crabby.
All of these “technology is making us more antisocial and the world is going to end” articles are being written by extroverts who don’t understand the simple pleasure involved in being left the fuck alone.
Before my cell phone, I had an iPod. Before my iPod, I had a Walkman. Before my Walkman, I carried books and magazines around with me. Before that, I probably fished for treasure in my diaper. I don't know. That was a long time ago.
But now I can listen to music or read or do my banking or talk to people who are not right in front of me. We can both contribute as much as the number of fucks we’ve allotted for the conversation allows.
That’s why I love social media. Yes, it’s often a cesspool of humanity, but that cesspool is as demanding as I let it be.
I remember the few times I was cornered in conversation on the subway in NYC. It was never a rewarding back and forth. It was always some douche-bucket glomming on to someone too polite and anxious to tell them to fuck off. I’d sit there for 20 minutes, held hostage by conspiracy theories and (usually) right-wing rants. It’s like if Sean Hannity suddenly appeared next to you, monologued his entire show at your face, then disappeared without letting you say a word.
Other times, social interaction involved strange men telling me to smile.
Now I can pretend I don't see people. If I get really into what I'm reading, I can actually not see them, which is even better.
I love living in the future.