Tom Matlack has a problem: he’s addicted to technology and social media.
I have an iPhone 4, a BlackBerry Bold, an iPad, old and new Kindles, a MacBook Pro, and three iMacs with beyond-HD screens. I have 11,010 Twitter followers (and yearn for the coronation of true modern celebrity that comes with a “certified account”), 5,156 fans on Facebook, and 1,072 fans of my posts on Huffington Post. I am ranked sixth out of 40-something bloggers on the Men’s Health site and have 216,910 reads on Scribd.
I have a problem.
If I put my BlackBerry down, I keep asking myself, what kind of man would I become? I was a beta user way back when the device looked like a beeper. I’ve developed thumb muscles capable of 90-plus words a minute; people stare in wonder at my talent. My wife takes the thing away from me in the car and at dinner parties.
Technology has taken over my life.
I would like to put down the BlackBerry, rather than use it to check messages over the urinal. I’d like not to care how many people share my columns. I’d like to find ways to connect the old-fashioned way: in the flesh. The question is, how? The false gods of money and booze—even sex and sports—have proved easier to put down than my iPhone.
How did this happen?
During the 1980s, there was a lot of complaining about yuppies taking over neighborhoods, breaking apart single-family homes into condos, and driving around in new Beamers with their collars popped. By 1989, I had matriculated at an Ivy League business school to study bond math and chase my yuppie dream of condo ownership.
A decade later, I rode my hipster Xootr scooter to my job as the managing partner of a venture capital firm, with my man purse (or “murse”) flapping on the handlebars. I was sporting Buddy Holly glasses and trying not to get my Gucci loafers dirty with each kick.
The coolest part of hipsterism then (and now) was technology. If yuppies brought materialism mainstream, hipsters tried to rebel against phony people by preferring the slickly designed Mac to the inelegant PC. It was the Golden Age of irony, wasn’t it?
Now it’s 2010. We’ve mortgaged our future, irony is no fun anymore, and guys like me—who honestly would like to try to do the right thing—still check our BlackBerrys in the middle of the night, craving just a scrap of news like a midnight hit of heroin.
The cool kids are reading Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart, for a peek at the near future. In Shteyngart’s world, everyone uses a device called an “Apparat” to rank their fellow man by attractiveness, personality, credit rating, and life expectancy. People’s importance is determined by how “media” they are—how many people follow their live video feed.
Back to my—and possibly your—reality. When it was cool to make money, I made a lot of it. I no longer ride a scooter, but I have become obsessed with devices and social media. I need help.
Maybe the answer is for all of us to unplug completely for a day, a week, or even a month. Maybe we should declare technology-free days to promote human connections. Or maybe guys like me need a 30-day residential program to treat our obsessive behavior.
I’d like to think that my thousands of fans, followers, and email recipients would suffer at the loss of my wit and wisdom if I dropped off the webosphere. But that’s my disease talking; they wouldn’t miss me for a second.
My name is Tom Matlack and I am a techno-addict. It’s time to surrender to a higher power capable of restoring my sanity. I just hope there’s wireless in heaven.
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Tom Matlack, together with James Houghton and Larry Bean, published an anthology of stories about defining moments in men’s lives — The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. It was how the The Good Men Project first began. Want to buy the book? Click here. Want to learn more? Here you go.