At 7 o’clock sharp—in precisely 4 and a half minutes—an app on my phone screen will fade from dull chartreuse to bright green. Eyeing up that tiny icon, I’m more-than-ready.
ExpandApp lives on my phone. No, that sounds too welcoming. My phone suffers a parasite called ExpandApp. It occupies valuable territory next to my lovelies, Twitter and Instagram. A phony neighbor. The name is a clever misnomer because nothing—at all—is expanding. Rather, my world is narrowed. Rather, the lifeblood is drained from my-online-self. I feel faint.
ExpandApp is a productivity tool, and I bend to its will. It started with a theatre camp mom. She became distracted by my phone-absorption. Mom Jeans complained: My little Harry needs to be coached and nurtured! His acting brilliance needs to be recognized! I will get my money’s worth, Miss Counselor! Put down that phone!
Number one: I’m the camp director, Ma’am.
Number two: This theatre camp is free.
Number three: Lil Harry’s no genius. He’s okay and all, but no genius.
To be clear, I said none of this. Instead, I apologized for my negligence and promptly downloaded ExpandApp. A YouTuber or a podcast—or was it a YouTuber with a podcast?—or maybe a real-life friend—recommended it.
ExpandApp endeavors to Expand a user’s free time by barring access to social media at certain times during the day. No scrolling through Instagram while crapping at work. No snapchatting while waiting at a red light. No tweeting about Sephora being sold out of my favorite eyeliner. (Kat Von D’s eyeliner. Yes, hers. Even though she’s an antivaxer, and I’m morally opposed to her belief system. I mean, girl makes an effing fantastic eyeliner. My tweet would explain as much; don’t worry.)
So—No social media. None of it. Not until 7pm. (2 minutes remaining.)
That’s how I set up the app, anyway. I used to have it green-lit between 7pm and 7am, but I would stay up all night to make the most of my time. I traded sleep for social media. Makes me smh. I altered the settings, though. Now, I’m allowed 7pm to midnight on weekdays. It’s open through the weekend. A little treat. My cheat meal.
This way of life is psychologically torturous, but so was the life before this. Gosh, I’m embarrassed by the need for this parasitic jerkoff. Back in college, when I needed to focus during finals week, I entrusted a friend to change my Facebook password. It was so dang easy to step away. Now, in my mid-twenties, my self-control has absconded with my focus. All of my restraint has been wasted.
It’s 6:59pm. 1 minute to go, and I can’t contain my ravenous joy. The promise of connection. The feeling of feeling like myself again. Participating in my community. I posted a picture on Instagram yesterday with the kids in camp. What will the response be? I’ll make the rest of the rounds, too. Twitter and Snapchat. Facebook, to see if I missed any birthdays. What have my friends been up to? What has been happening in the world? What do my friends have to say about what’s been happening in the world?
Five hours of technological bliss, and then the world goes on spinning.
Julia Eldred earned an MFA from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, where she still resides. Her connected stories explore femininity and millennial identity. More at www.juliaeldred.com. @thegingerjulia