This is an exercise in drawing you back to your body before you slip into your screen. We start by stepping beyond both. You are an attentive observer, observing your patterns of attention. Note symmetries usually hidden: parallelism, in the angle shared by crook of neck and cant of screen; perpendicularity, in the T created by line of sight on plane of screen. Simplicity belies complexity: you, convex; screen, sheer, rectilinear with hard lines but round edges; study the shapes, toddlers do. Windows within windows within windows, opening right, closing left. Within these fixed contours is so much of your experience, collapsed, captured, contained.
But vision is insufficient, deceitful even, exactly that which locks us in it. Turn to touch to bust your way out. A screen proffers infinity, all phenomena displayed, relayed through unified tactility. The temperature: icy, ever cooler than your skin. The texture: inert, glasslike metal and metallic glass, frictionless yet relentlessly resistant. Summon the sensation of portals with purchase withheld. The pads of your fingers pressing, swiping, down, again, up, again. What you feel is your own flesh yielding. Now power down. Backlight black, bask in your traces: glorious smears, gallant smudges. Meld in the dark with your evidence, just you released and reflected.
Our bodies continue to chronicle their own cravings. Pain, both real and imagined. Phantom spasms flicker through femurs. Rogue rings tickle inner ears: tumults of tinnitus brought by the transient trill. Better bury the burn behind your eyeballs, then. Some stings are self-evident, the price paid for a seventh sense: a certain sentience, iProprioception. If location is relative, so must silence and solitude be. Do you also wake up with screens beneath your pillows? Is it your limbs that articulate your first needs, inaugurating morning with undesignated auroral migrations? They fulfill your will until stiffness settles in. No tooth fairy ever soothsaid with such precision. If algorithms owe penance it’s for rupturing circadian rhythms, for chiseling deeper into the crevasse of every inner schism. Nature verse nurture, sublimated into subtle torture.
And the matter of the heart. Where it most hurts. Screens, the primary source of ressentiment. Don’t misplace fury: you were felled, finally, by our common frailty. So long as synapses fire design will work as well as dopamine; it is desire that disappoints. The spirit wrestles for control: it loses: selfhood curdles. Now comes impassioned dissection: find the bits of sorrow to keep safe while you sift for despair. Hope must not fold under the burden of proof. In truth it is the beauty of banality that I promise you.
One day, the final screen will have slipped back under the sea. Its slick solidity will have weighed down one last supple palm, its heavy heft will have lain along one last line of long fingers. We will have known the cost, accepted liability for the remaining balance. The legacy of use will be indistinguishable from the lineage of abuse, the residue of anguish. There will be a splash not unlike the old commercials for liquid crystals. The first tasks will have been to flex the muscles of your mind in order to move meaning to your body.
Language is futile if we let it float by disembodied. This printed page is doing battle; these sentences and sibilants are separately giving chase. When the chords of our cores thrum together in vivid vibration, when we mark the mutual emanation, then—then and only then—will we have sounded out solidarity.
Marc Shkurovich writes at the intersection of contemporary literature, social technologies, and being 22. He writes the newsletter Sintext and works as a tutor and bookseller in Los Angeles.