My girlfriend was excited to go to Todd’s surprise mail order viagra birthday party. Todd is a mutual friend, more so her friend than mine as they have known each other since they were fresh out of diapers, but that would be a fruitless argument of quantity over quality.
Todd and I have bonded over a variety of things and I was excited to go to the party as well. Why wouldn’t I be? Todd and his roommate Scott have a great apartment, especially for parties, and there was going to be a boatload of familiar, friendly faces at the party. Except for Scott. It’s because of Scott that we won’t be attending the party. He won’t allow me in his apartment.
Months ago I arrived at the place for a non-specific party. My buddy Andy was stationed at the makeshift DJ booth on the rooftop patio. The place was "bumpin'" and every face had a smile, including mine. My girlfriend, Kristin, and I brought our beverages to the Tiki bar for refrigeration and began making small talk with a few other party-goers. Things were pretty chill. Then Scott’s cocaine (and other illicit narcotics)-filled face rose to the surface of the shifting sands of social butterflies, right in front of me, with a half smirk, half smile.
“Hey man,” he said flippantly. “I don’t really want you here.”
Scott and I had met amicably on numerous occasions, exchanged kind words, engaged in conversation, and generally got along while getting to know each other a little better with each meeting. We had never exchanged any words of ill-will and, for the most part, as far as I knew, we were "acquaintances" of good will. There had been no drama.
“Where is this coming from?” I asked.
Scott’s face was flush with blood, his eye-lids purplish, and his skin cocaine clammy.
“I don’t need any of your drama,” he said in a smug tone while peering off at the crowd as if they were some kind of conquest. Needless to say, things escalated to hostile words. I composed myself while he made threats and referred to his "time in the clink" with wild and chaotic dilating pupils and froth at the corners of his mouth.
“Whatever man.” I returned to the Tiki bar to retrieve my beers. Kristin had been in the midst of the fray trying to diffuse the situation and was now cursing Scott while I made my exit as gracefully as possible. We made our way downstairs to a mutual friend’s apartment in the same building where we cracked some pops and decompressed a little bit with a cross section of our friends who decided to leave the party with us.
Later on in the evening, Scott made his way down to the apartment to try his hand at apologizing. Interpersonal skills aren’t one of his strengths. I wasn’t interested in a clumsy apology and made that obvious. This escalated into some barbaric chest inflation and name-calling until I told him it was better he leave, which, backed by the tenants, he did.
Allowing this to bother me would give more value to Scott’s theft of "social capital". I am disappointed, but not bothered. Scott allowed hearsay and minute blips echoing through the social network, to have enough meaning and value for him to formulate a concrete opinion of another living, breathing denizen of this place.
I will not judge him for his ignorance. I will not hold my values against his. Being objective, particularly when the desires of a loved one are compromised, is not an easy task. It requires the regular practice of the rational mind to offset the reactionary and passionate emotional mind. This practice of balancing these two fundamental aspects of the self can bring you to a centre point, a wise mind, from which you can make more pertinent, objective, and effective decisions.
Should you be on the receiving end of a social conflict, leverage the immediate emotional impulse by practicing the intellectual skills you are currently immersed in. This is a tried and true method for ‘getting out of yourself’, ‘getting out of the moment’, or at least ‘staying out of trouble’.
I was on the number 51 on my way downtown.
I turned to my trusty Samsung Note II and opened the ‘Games’ folder for something fun to do to pass the time. Usually, I will catch up on my readings for school when I’m on my way to campus in the mornings because the bus is less busy and, subsequently, more peaceful. This bus was packed though, so I decided to do something more, shall we say, recreational, because my personal space was being invaded.
This way I wouldn’t have to stare aimlessly at signs, avoiding eye contact, and I would have a valid reason to avoid engaging in conversation.
Who am I kidding? The truth is, I’m addicted.
Candy Crush calls to me in my sleep. I frequently find myself with phantom itches, comparable to a jones-ing heroin addict, that only subside with the appearance of the lanky ringmaster lookalike that stands smiling on the splash page for the game. Evidence of the epidemic presented itself en route from McMaster when the 60-something man to my left peeked over my shoulder and chuckled. “Addictive, isn’t it?” On another bus ride, a young man sitting in front of me swiped his lock screen at the same time as I did and our devices played the same theme music almost in tandem. We looked at each other with a certain clandestine glee.
There has been an unquestionable, exponential surge in technological advances in the past decade. Personal data devices are an inevitable reality, particularly for those fortunate enough to have the economic and cultural capital to be attending a post-secondary institution as prestigious as ours. Laptops are overcoming handwritten notes, and with this comes the unfortunate distractions of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and their ilk. While your professors gallantly impart the most prolific lecture material possible, they have no choice but to accept the digitization of their students’ learning processes.
After these encounters, I have been more aware of the habits of my fellow public transportationists. I take time to evaluate the ratios of digital involvement and interpersonal involvement. I’m sure each of you can agree that the number of people with their heads buried in the digital sands continues to increase.
This illusion has bled into our institutions too. Even with a laptop in front of her with multiple browser windows open, a young lady beside me in lecture pulls out her phone to browse another site. Metaphorical jaw agape, I considered how I hadn’t seen her actually look at the prof once, meanwhile she had been robotically taking notes on her MacBook Pro the entire time, carrying on a conversation with her friend beside her, texting some guy, and was now browsing her phone’s internet.
I can identify the value of multi-tasking, but my argument is that something important gets lost in the dilution of attention.
Even with all of this being said, I am still a true lover and advocate of technology. I have the newest gadgets possible; I enjoy playing GTA V, Borderlands 2 with my oldest son, surfing social networks, and any other ethereal plane you can possibly imagine.
However, I have learned through a drawn out series of consequences, to gauge my tech-time by one value: Purpose.
I am not advocating puritanism. That would be a confining, boring and passionless existence. What I am advocating is a clarity of purpose - purpose with a clear direction and a valid destination in mind, a destination of mutual benefit. Tools themselves have no purpose except in their use.
This is why tools are developed, isn’t it?