Think of genuine face-to-face interaction like Myspace, or home phones, or carrier pigeons—an outdated mode of communication that nobody uses anymore. They don’t need it. I walk down the street and feel I’m the only one inhabiting this reality. All I see are the tops of heads, hair falling over eyes and horizontal necks, tap dancing fingers kicking across tiny screens. I see a homeless man, and alas! his eyes, but his eyes scare me because homeless people scare me. I’m alone here.
There are of course the hipsters who still use face-to-face interaction like they use vinyl, but it’s only for show like the the record player they have displayed next to their fourth-hand couch. It’s displayed so you don’t realize the fourth-hand couch is really a second-hand Ikea and the speakers are really plugged into an iPhone the same way they’re really plugged into their Twitter and Facebook and Tinder. They listen to Spotify just like everyone else.
I am not a hipster. I don’t use human interaction for show. In fact I don’t use human interaction at all. Think of my life like an empty room—no couch, no vinyl, no record player, no cords leading to an iPhone hiding behind said nonexistent couch. Nothing. Only a mat on the floor with room enough for one.
I don’t remember the last time I had sex. I remember the last person I had sex with and I saw said person not under five years ago, which makes me think I haven’t had sex in five years. These things happen, or don’t happen. An accidental born again virgin. I hiccuped and found myself behind the times, an old man at 26.
Other outdated modes of communication and entertainment could include—but are not limited to—cassette tapes, floppy discs and drives, VHS tapes (yes, many hipsters still use VHS, but only as a sick form of kind of cool irony). When someone does happen to look up from their phone and their eyes collide with mine, I see the way they look at me. Their eyes soften, curl around their edges with a scattered sense of something lost. What they see is a VHS tape. Something cool, antiquated, but utterly useless.
—like a typewriter, another example, or a pencil—
The collision of eyes ends as their neck cranes back down to their phone and they walk on, forget that there are people out there like me, at least one. If there are any others out there, I don’t know how to find them. You can’t find them on Tinder. Nobody can.
Let us return to the metaphor of my life as an empty room with a mat on the floor with room just enough for one—in a literal sense this is fairly accurate. I live in a small one-bedroom cottage on the outskirts of town and sleep on a rug in the corner, though I do share the space with someone who once was a friend. Brian is his name. Brian once was called Brianna and still has breasts as evidence of this. Once every two weeks he digs a tin Batman lunchbox from the corner of our closet. Inside are some syringes and vials. Inside the vials is Testosterone Cypionate. The syringes—and Testosterone—go inside Brian so he can look more like a Brian as opposed to a Brianna.
Brian is what started all this, really—this experiment in investigative journalism—because after moving in with Brian I quickly realized what a needy whore this Brian is. Brian recently rejoined the ranks of Tinder. For the uninitiated like myself, Tinder is a dating app where you flip through prospective mates like a deck of cards until you find a match.
This is what Tinder Inc says about Tinder—
“Tinder is a fun way to discover new and interesting people nearby. 10 billion matches have been made on Tinder. Here is how it works: If you’re interested in connecting with someone on Tinder, then just anonymously Swipe Right to Like them; or Swipe Left to Pass. If someone likes you back, then it’s a match! Chat with your matches and get to know them inside of Tinder.”
This is what Tinder Inc says other Incs say about Tinder—
“Tinder solved online dating for women”
—New York Magazine
“Tinder has become something of a cultural phenomenon”
“Tinder is perfect for women”
“The world’s hottest app”
It’s a cesspool, it really is. I imagine Brian rejoining Tinder has something to do with needing to get away from me and my empty room with the matt, the literal and metaphorical room. This is how it happens—After we go to Goodwill and Home Depot and Value Village for kitchenware and shelves and toiletries for our new cottage together, Brian starts up his Tinder. A severe change takes place within Brian. The light goes out in his eyes, their only illumination from the little LCD screen he’s hunched over for the following several hours. I fear that if his phone dies, it’ll leave two gaping holes from which no light escapes. This doesn’t happen. By the end of these several hours Brian has over fifty messages to sort through and three dates lined up for the coming week. As someone who hasn’t had three dates in the past five years, this is astounding, and mildly nauseating. I realize something has to be done. Whether it was what I wanted or not, over the last five years my world has grown frighteningly small, claustrophobic even. The few friends I do have I don’t keep in touch with and are on the verge of becoming non-friends. And then there is Brian who I am slowly realizing I’m in love with, so friendship there is no longer possible. But the love isn’t real, I know that. I’m in love with Brianna, not Brian, and Brian has made it incessantly clear that he is, indeed, a Brian.
Anyway, Brian’s week goes like this. His first date is with a dude named Chase—now of course his name was Chase—and I quote via Brian: “It was some of the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s rare that anyone can keep up and Chase, my, Chase could keep up.” The next date is with a transgender woman and it goes like this—drinks, breakneck make out session, Brian drives transgender woman home, transgender woman begs Brian to take her back to our cottage. Brain says no. Transgender woman begs Brian to be her boyfriend. Brian says no, fuck no, fuck no you crazy fucking person. I later find out that at the age of 27, transgender woman has had 34 significant others and clearly does not take the institution of significant others very seriously. Brian on the other hand has had only six—though he has had 57 sex partners—so I don’t know what conclusion to make of this.
57 partners. I count that on my fingers to see what 57 looks like, what 57 feels like, but I don’t have enough fingers. Nobody does. I use my toes. I don’t have enough toes.
How many partners have I had? I can fit all three on one hand. Index. Middle. Ring. One. Two. Three.
I don’t know how his next date goes. Brian comes home with bruises. I wonder if he likes that sort of thing. He lies down on the floor, crawls under my desk he’s turned into his own little cave and burrows against the wall. He stares at the collage of photos he has plastered across the wall and under my desk—photos of the Great Pacific Northwest, the evergreens and mountains and rain-drenched Seattle streets—and I see that Brian wishes he is there. Brian is there though. We live within this Great Pacific Northwest together in a cottage meant only for one. We’re always right here but I don’t say this. Instead I break his silence and announce that maybe I too should get a Tinder, I too should enjoy in this afterglow. Brian only laughs. He’s still laughing when I shut the door, lie face down on my own rug in this empty room, tears staining my pillow. How does this happen? How do we get so alone?
That night I dream about my past five years of unintentional celibacy. Not a whole lot happens which explains why I can fit it all into a single dream of night sweats and screaming trains and rattling tracks. I dream a world of no risk taking, no chances, no Romeo and Juliet eye-locks and no cute stories of boy meets girl because technological evolution has ripped this from the mating equation. Our phones evolve while we fall backward into the Big Collision. We don’t take risks because we don’t have to. We can either talk to the cute girl at the coffee shop or huddle over the comfort of our phones swiping left and right and giving ourselves a sense of power and control that true human interaction has long since given us. There’s a safety in Tinder, of guaranteed sex or requited attraction or dopamine rushes when IT’S A MATCH! and hundreds of options so no “One” is never enough, not even the cute girl at the coffee shop. So when you see this cute coffee shop girl with her greasy forearms and stained apron and sky-blue bra strap loose over her left shoulder and your heart is thudding and your palms are sweating and your stomach doesn’t feel a part of you, there is no shame in going to the light of your phone, swiping left, swiping right, masturbating in a cold shower if everyone swipes you left.
The genesis of (almost) all social interaction takes place on our phones, on online social platforms I am no longer a part of, which answers the question—why am I so alone?
Tinder. Tinder is to blame, and yet it’s also the answer to my problems, to a world that has become so frighteningly small and numb and so lacking in feeling that you have no choice but to feel it and you feel this lack so strong that you’ll do anything just to never feel this nothing ever again. This nothing tears right through you.
join man next week for journal #2 (in which said man gets a tinder)