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Time to Log Off 

Ian Marcus Corbin

The brake lights in front of me pop red, and without thinking I pivot my foot to the brake pedal, slow to a stop and reach for my iPhone, sliding my thumb to the unlock button like an infant swings his open mouth to the nipple. Depending on the light, I’ll have 30 to 90 seconds to quickly scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or scan through a couple of paragraphs in that article I started reading before I left.

I don’t do this every time I stop at a light, but if I’m thirsty for it I’ll do it under almost any circumstances: night or day, snow or sun, alone or accompanied. I’ll do it because at that moment I am bored, sad, stressed, or lonely, and when I feel that way I need your likes, your words and images, my fellow humans, like a parched, heaving, desert-crawling traveler needs water.

If I were unique in this, it’d be scarcely worth writing or reading about. But my thirst is ours. The drivers around me bear witness, eyes glued down, darting up only to take periodic note of conditions outside. If anyone gets absorbed and misses the turn to green, the other drivers, having noticed a second before, will lean on their horns. The congregants at the intersection supplicate together, seeking solace or redemption — or we know not what — in the digital presence of our non-proximal neighbors and friends.

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Ian Marcus Corbin is the owner of Matter & Light Fine Art in Boston and a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Boston College.

Ian Marcus Corbin, "Time to Log Off," The New Atlantis, Number 56, Summer/Fall 2018, pp. 136-139.