What the 21st Century Brought: Imprisonment, Isolation, Tweeting

by Eda Haksal 

I slept in until 10 am. It was a nice sunny Saturday afternoon, the kind that, if you live in Lower Manhattan like I do, attracts you to SoHo to be in the moment with the cool crowd of downtown (Bear with me…). I certainly did not want to miss such a beautiful day. I needed to show my face in the most happening place in the city to legitimize that I was living it up. If I could, I would certainly tweet about it too. Outside the window, teenagers, several couples and tourists were taking their time slowly walking on Broadway- a rare scene in New York.

Eventually, the brick pavements of SoHo led me to Bleecker Street where I indulged myself in a velvet cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery. I had already reached in my pocket in search of my missing phone three times in an attempt to check my texts, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and email. When I attempted to check my phone right after I woke up, my inability to do so had made me feel alienated from the world.  I had felt really sad; as I knew that most probably, my “followers” did not care or would have even noticed my absence from social media and from the real world. I had forced myself to go to the gym to run. I could have used some extra endorphins. As I grabbed my Bluetooth headphones… Wait, no way. (Initiating event. Wink, wink to my fellow Present Shock readers.) What is the point of this assignment? Maybe, I will just fake it. 

I had always heard of people saying how fun and liberating it was to run outside. One of my three resolutions for this particular week was to step outside my comfort zone. I put on my sports coat and sneakers. At first, I jogged around my neighborhood in Greenwich Village.  I was also holding my keys in my hands as I read that holding keys in your hand signaled the brain to get rid of your worries. After ten minutes, I decided to go to the Hudson River Park on the West side by the Hudson River. I always liked the road to the West side from West 10thstreet but today it was even more enchanting. (Catharsis: Was I really alienated from the world or did my alienation from social media push me to the real world? How separate were the two worlds?)

After my run and visit to Soho, it was already 6 P.M. I had a choice: go out or stay in (at 6 P.M. on a Saturday). I did something I had never done in my life before. I went up to the building of a close friend of mine to see if he was home and wanted to hang out. This was either really strange, even creepy, or healthy and charming in a way that reminded one of old Meg Ryan movies. I certainly could not tell the answer from my friend’s confused face. After I told him about the assignment, we had a really great time. We ended up staying in.

I was already feeling very sleepy by 9 pm. I thought maybe I did not have insomnia- a chronic sleep disorder I had been dealing with for over a year. Perhaps if I lived in isolation like Walden‘s Thoreau and if I was not distracted by such stimulants as TV, laptops, lights during the day, my body would be in tune with nature. I always secretly knew this but I did not think that I would get there in less than a day.

Thoreau asks, is society the only place to live? I think we can add another dimension to it. If society is a social construct by definition, then can we change what society means for us? Does it have be a means to be wealthy (or wealthier than the family you were born into), pretty (as being held to the standards of women’s magazines) and powerful (with a good status in your social circle)?

Thoreau believes that austerity, simplicity and solitude are keys to true freedom and happiness. I promised myself to channel Thoreau in my life by being minimalist and more involved with nature. It is funny, when we say spend time outside, we generally mean outside interacting with others. We often forget that we can also spend valuable time by ourselves with nature. Yet, crimes in urban life limit our ability to go outside alone to a park after a certain hour in the day. Although industrial revolution has given us numerous technological improvements making our lives efficient and perhaps more effective, I do not think it has made our lives happier. This is always going to be a dilemma. We can do so many things with a click of a machine, produce more things, employ more labor, and produce even more things… But are we all perhaps just better off by minding our own business, going outside and fishing, farming, reading great literature?

The next day, I ran outside again. I used to always run on the treadmill and I found that running outside is definitely different and gives me a greater joy. I used to also, as mentioned in the Present Shock, could not bear the linear narrative of TV. I would much prefer getting multidimensional information from the Internet. The next day, this was more apparent to me. I was even more appalled by certain TV shows, mostly sitcoms, that I saw when changing the channels. I still liked watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (my favorite part was as always his interview), yet I now had a little voice in me saying I did not need to listen to their skepticism when I could find my own. I felt this sudden urge to be more active. I have a healthy body, so what am I doing sitting and watching a show that talks about another show that I sat down to read not so long ago?

My three resolutions for the coming week are: (1) make your own jokes about the news to two friends, (2) run outside, and (3) look at the sun every morning and say, I am going to be my most cheerful self today.

Despite my effort to stay positive, I could not help but felt imprisoned on top of one of the most luxurious hotels in the city the next weekend by the steel columns barring me behind the beautiful city.

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