Rustin Low

Addicted

Rustin Low
Addicted

The end of June is a special time of the year where in gay world, sleeves become the enemy, rainbow flags pop up all around the world, and everyone unapologetically storms the streets to honor the sacrifices those before us made so we may live our lives and love as we would like. (It also happens to be my birthday, so added bonus.) When June rolls around, I always spend time with people who mean the world to me, I make new friends, and I have fun - this year was no exception. I made the Journey to Seattle to celebrate with family and friends - and the week before I left I decided to conduct a little social experiment. I deleted the social applications from my phone. The result was eye opening.

The night before I flew out, I hopped on the subway from my office in Chelsea after working late to wrap up some business that needed to be handled before I skipped town. On the 20 minute commute home, I made my icons all wiggly and clicked "x" on every single one of those little hoes in the folder labeled social. Grindr. Facebook. Snapchat. Messenger. Twitter. (Okay not Instagram, but it's not my fault they don't have a desktop app. I did turn off cellular data for it though... so wifi only.) I slid my little phone back into my blazer pocket feeling excited and looked around the train car - every single other person (with the exception of that one homeless guy who sings racists songs on the 1) was glued to their phones. It was like they were afraid of making eye contact with a stranger. I decided I was so much better than them, and more importantly, I needed to tell everyone just how much better I was... via Twitter. I got my phone out to Tweet my disgust about our cell addiction - realized I no longer had Twitter - then sat and soaked in the irony of the situation.

This habitual phantom posting phenomenon continued for the first three days - specifically in lines, elevators, airplanes, trains, cabs, or anywhere else I had to be idle for more than 2 seconds. It happened less and less, however. And I slowly found myself more present, more engaged, and happier. By the time the Pride Parade rolled around the following Sunday, I (with the assistance of Tequila) was perfectly fine leaving my phone anywhere and everywhere. (PS Thank you to my friends for saving me the trip to the Apple Store.) I was more engaged in the conversations I had with new friends, with my family, even with total strangers. Being less connected honestly made me feel more connected, and trust me I know how "hippy bullshit eye roll" that sounds - but it's true.

Don't get the wrong take-a-way here though, and don't start calling me a liar and throwing "But I saw you post _______" at me, yet. I didn't delete my accounts. Just my ability to check them on the go. I have somewhere around 50,000 followers across my various platforms, and to pretend that's not advantageous for spreading word about my business, generating leads, or spreading what I like to think are valuable little bits of knowledge, would be stupid. I have a microphone and there's a lot of responsibility and opportunity that comes with that. But that doesn't mean I need to keep that microphone in my pocket 24/7. I find it's hard to listen if all I'm worried about is blasting my own voice.

In the evening I would log into my accounts and check them from a desktop. I'd post what I'd collected from the day, check my notifications, and I'd log out. I lost my interest in refreshing my feeds, and I no longer felt like I needed to digest everything that everyone shared. It was like when I stopped drinking soda, then took a sip of someone's a few months later - all of the sudden I realized that in addition to it being unhealthy, I didn't even like it. I was just addicted.