On the 37th floor of the Samsung Tower Suites, Alexa stares hopelessly at the inky black between her eyelids and the ceiling. Her eyes open, then close. She lays on her stomach, then curls into her side.
Alexa’s been tossing and turning for an hour. The pulsing pain in her wrist isn’t what’s keeping her awake (although it does still throb, despite icing it on and off all night while binge-watching Twin peaks). With eyelids closed, she takes a deep breath through her nose. She tries to be present like the sculpted spandex teacher at Serenity Now Yoga always says. She exhales. Like a digital stock-market ticker, thoughts scroll across her internal display screen. Why hasn’t he texted me back yet? I can see he read the message. She squeezes her eyes together and inhales again, pulling in more air this time. Thoughts bullet her mental stream of consciousness like the videos of Syria from the evening news. Only 9 likes? 9 is nothing. Only 9 people out of my 2,321 friends? Alexa exhales all of the air from her lungs.
Out of habit, she reaches out to her left side, fingers finding the smooth contours of her smartphone. Half asleep, half wishing she were asleep, she presses the center button.The room with no windows fills with the signature chalky grey-brown color of Night Mode light, as if the lid on Pandora’s box has just been kicked off.
Alexa scrolls through a jumbled dump of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat notifications. She hovers over a few missed messages. Simultaneously, she is filled with a swollen feeling of pleasure and pain. On one hand, likes and comments trigger dopamine release. Alexa feels light, happy. On the other hand, she feels dissatisfaction. She thinks: Only 27 likes on that post. Seriously?
Thumb-pecking out a comment, Alexa winces in pain. Her recent revelation that she must ‘ be the change you wish you to see in the world’ has inspired some drastic changes. Alexa ended a stagnating relationship. She moved into her own apartment. She left Starbucks and started a certification course in Thai Massage. This is the last change- her career “pivot” from barista to Thai massage- is the culprit of her thumb and wrist pain. That’s not entirely true. The massaging has only exacerbated her carpal tunnel from years of iPhone overuse. Grimacing, Alexa rubs the meaty part of her right thumb with her left fingers. Alexa knows she suffers from carpal tunnel. She knows this not because a doctor told her. Her precarious economic position doesn’t allow for luxuries like health insurance. Instead of consulting a doctor, she looked online- watched diagnostic videos, read other people stories and studied factual articles.
Curled up on her red sheets, like a child in a womb, Alexa’s eyelids finally close. The phone is still in her hand, inches from her face. Her breathing deepens. The air passing over the back of her throat sound like the
ocean tide rolling in and out. The muscles in her wrist and forearm release.
Then Night Mode light again shoots up into the previously serene space above Alexa’s bed. Alexa’s eyes open. She moans. Her eyes pierce the beam of beige light. Based on her recent research, Alexa knows that Night Mode encourages sleep by eliminating blue light. Based on her research, she knows blue light suppresses our bodies’ melatonin production. What does melatonin do? Triggers drowsiness. This, too, Alexa discovered during one of her recent her skydives down an online rabbit-hole.
Hand already on the glowing rectangle of metal and glass; she holds it away from her face to read the screen. As she squints, lines rush to her forehead.
‘’ Oh my god,’’ she says aloud. Alexa sits up, mouth hanging open. Her neck is scrunched. She clutches the phone with both hands.
Alexa isn’t shocked by the Instagram or Facebook notifications for the selfie she took while shopping at IKEA with a metal cart loaded up with leafy green Himalayamix house plants. Nor is she aghast by the Ebay bar indicating she has a new bid on the vintage iron she’s selling.
What, then, has gotten Alexa so unplugged? The flashing red bar of her phone’s low battery warning.
– Ryan Loveeachother