I’ll be distracted at least 20 times while I write this, but I’ll make up for it by doing 20 drafts.
During any era that would have been quite normal for someone with my formation of quirks and mental illnesses—my little squadron of popping, fizzing and colliding neurotransmitters. But this world of information super-highways, chiming alerts, automatic opt-ins and torturously mysterious numbers hovering over every icon on my phone? Well it’s killing me.
There’s a numeral floating on my Snapchat icon and it’s been there for six months. I no longer care about Aleppo, Trump or personal hygiene. That little #1 has become the greatest mystery of my life. I’m not even sure if I want to know why it’s there (I don’t even use Snapchat) but I’ve become superstitious about it. Things are going quite well, so what would happen if it ever disappeared? It could even be as catastrophic as putting my right shoe on before the left, or forgetting to cut sandwiches diagonally.
As I die, I won’t remember my family or the many great romantic loves of my life. I won’t plead with the gods I’ve attempted to believe in. I won’t wish to write one more word, let alone finish another novel. I will mumble something about Snapchat (if it still exists), scream ‘ONE!’ and then… oblivion (or worse).
Hospital staff will comfort my loved ones by saying, “He wasn’t really in control of all his faculties near the end; he was just raving ”. My loved ones will comfort the hospital staff by explaining, “He was never really in control of all his faculties; he was always raving.”
It used to be so perfect before I was caught in the interweb and chained to a GPS tracker. It was possible to be fiendishly sly and avoid detection. Well to be honest, I never travelled outside a 5km radius of my home so I was pretty easy to find. If I wasn’t at my house, I’d be at the pub. If the pub was closed, you’d have to do a little detective work.
You’d probably pick up my scent fairly quickly: an overturned car on fire, a drug dealer counting money, a resident asking if you’d seen his wheelie bin, closely followed by spotting an unconscious guy stuck in a wheelie bin. You could follow the trail of destruction and probably catch me as I was being thrown out of a club. Then we could hang out all night and be thrown out of more clubs.
It was a good life for an ADD/OCD sufferer. I couldn’t give a toss about anything outside of my block or social circle. Real life wasn’t like Facebook. People didn’t walk through the door of the pub every two hours to show you their babies, or yell out ‘Hey just wanted everyone to know things will be okay if you just remain positive’, or get all their non-racist friends together to remind them racism was bad.
If the OCD side of me struggles with constant connectivity and communication, the ADD side is baffled by choice. I haven’t tried waterboarding (bucket list), but when it comes to information and media, my brain certainly knows about suffocation.
My Google history would put me on most watch lists. I just looked up Police GPS tracking, got distracted by a Clinton conspiracy theory article, and several hours later I ended up with a story about a Beluga whale who attempted to mimic human speech while being trained by the CIA. There’s a reason they’re called hyperlinks. There have been times when I’ve literally spent 24 hours straight on Wikipedia and still have no idea if anything I’ve read has ever been verified.
Is opening the floodgates and allowing everyone in the world to publish with almost zero censorship a good thing? Since I do it, the answer is yes. But I sometimes miss the days of limitation, when I knew a song was good because the band was on a specific label, or I chose films according to directors, or books according to publishers. Yes that still happens but here’s the difference: give me one thousand choices and I will sit here and tab through the entire list, and then realise I don’t have time to watch a film, read a book or listen to an album.
It’s true there are more diamonds now, but rather than being clearly presented, they’ve been dropped into a sewer, and it’s usually some obsessive motherfucker like me who has to climb into a pair of gumboots and wade through the raw sewerage to find the gems.
Is there any wonder we’re more anxious creatures? I sometimes feel like a solitary punter sitting in a football stadium, and every single one of the other 100,000 people is screaming for my attention.
All I can say is thank God for meditation, although any calm or focus I achieve is sure to be negated by that #1 hovering over the Snapchat icon.