Swipe, delete, repeat: How I lost touch with attachment in the Digital Age
Several years ago I began a daily practice of deleting my text messages. It became a sort of cleansing exercise, often executed alongside nightly rituals including teeth brushing and showering; review the threaded textual messages, capture any necessary information – usually a proposed client meeting time or social activity – and wipe each from my mobile digital world, forever. I had also chosen to resist digital requests to backup my message content to cloud-based storage – this content lost its validity at the close of each day, so why maintain it in a somewhat limitless online vault?
Over the years, I crafted and delivered an impressive number of seemingly certain reasons supporting the logical framework of this practice. "The messages are ephemeral, and therefore lose meaning over time," I would say, or, "I prefer to feel I am closing each day with a blank slate." Sometimes the response was a simple as, "Simplicity." Each justification carefully relaying some detail of my person I sought to hone – the self-actualized version of myself presented externally, and nearly always with an eye for clarity and concision.
And then a friend asked, pointedly, what spurred the behavior, and in an effort to answer fully, openly, their prompt broke the construct.
Several years ago I began a daily practice of deleting my text messages. And several years ago, I was hurt and unsettled by the unexpected conclusion of a relationship that had been one of few in my then-lifetime – whether familial, friendly, or romantic – that felt right. It was love, and for the first time I believed I understood the elusive feeling so frequently described in every art medium known to man. It was love, and then it wasn't. And I felt empty and fearful I may not be able to find it again, elsewhere.
Love was not an experience readily present in my childhood or early adulthood, and admittedly, I'd worried for much of my cognizance that I may not be able to identify it upon encounter; the mammalian brain, while highly capable of limbic resonance, progresses in patterns; we effectively cannot see clearly what we've not already known during the impressionable stages of youthful neural development.
In the midst of this period of emotional suffering, driven by fear, I sought to forget what it felt like to be loved. If I no longer understood the feeling of calm, reposing right-ness that love could provide, perhaps I would cease to feel its loss.
Several years ago I began a daily practice of deleting my text messages, which may seem the flippant observation of a self-actualized Millennial, but it was more – it was an immediate affront to attachment; an intentional daily effort to avoid feeling attached to anyone or any feeling evoked by their words.
When people affirm the difficulty in love, they are not solely referring to the maintenance of relationships, which require attendant care, but also the act of identifying and understanding the presence of love. Love is difficult, but I realize this must be implicitly accepted in its invitation; if one is to know love, one must also know the potential to be hurt, and the fear in this uncertainty.
And yes, one must stop the daily practice of deleting text messages.
Excepting drunk texts and/or those overwrought with emojis. #detest