By Cassie Sheridan
The first deep throb in my heart was generated through a computer screen. I would IM for hours, making the idea of someone way better than the real person. It was perfect for someone in middle school, with heightened emotions I was unsure how to express face-to-face.
I like to believe I’ve grown up. However, when it comes to the hard conversations, I’d still rather not have to look anyone in the eye.
Remember all those articles in the mid 2000s warning about the preteens who were in virtual relationships? Well, those kids are adults now and we’ve literally rewritten the rules for romance...and they are filled with yellow emojis with hearts in their eyes.
We might not use IM anymore, but it’s been replaced by an slough of programs and apps to filter our expression of love through screens. My impending favorite, a new app called ‘Invisible Boyfriend,’ allows you to design a significant other that will text you, call you and worry about you.
We have definitely upgraded from IM.
Smartphone de-attachment anxiety is diagnosable. And those little iMessage pending-text bubbles are causing so much anxiety, it’s being covered by the NYT. If you’ve ever had a hard and horrible and emotionally devastating conversation over text message, you know the power of that typing awareness indicators.
Sit on a bench in front of the library sometime and tally the amount of people you see that don’t have their phone in an iron-vice grip. I sat for an hour in the evening and saw a great deal of people openly conversing, but I had to stop tallying people I saw walking and texting because it depressed me too much.
I’m guilty of it too. I struggle to not check my email or my messages or my snapchats during an mere hour meal with someone I care about. We are all so desperate for contact and constant connection, yet the item most used to stay in touch with our world is filling our communication threads with taco emojis.
Obviously it’s not going to stop, but I think we all know that we can do better.
It’s easy to make jokes around this time in February that your Valentine is your cellphone. And it’s easy to play Tinder for a while to make yourself feel better about the fact that there’s no one lying beside you.
What’s hard is to set down our phones and push aside our computers and have real conversations with the people around us - or even with ourselves.
I know this is nothing new. Your parents, your professors, (and, ironically, everything posted on the internet), are telling us to disconnect. I recognize I’m just another person telling you to do this while typing on a computer.
But I don’t want to live in a world where people proclaim their crushes for one another on Yik-Yak, and I don’t want to live in a world where I feel physically sick with anxiety while watching little bubbles pop back and forth on a screen.
We can all do a little better. We can all be a little less afraid. We can all set down our phones for five minutes and have a real conversation with the person we think is cute in our English class instead of sitting in isolated silence and anonymously telling the community of Yik-Yakkers.
If you’ve ever had a real and true and heart-throbbing conversation face-to-face, you know it’s impossible to be fulfilled by the superficiality of virtual valentines and heart emojis.
My 13-year-old self didn’t know what she was missing as she chained herself to a computer. And the more we try to dismantle this dependence, the more fulfillment we can find from relationships outside the virtual.