We all know what’s changed — what’s really happened in the 2010s. It’s beneath that bridge in Brooklyn and it’s at the Trump rally in New Mexico, where exiting fans stopped to take selfies with the president speaking behind them in the distance. The man with the broken watch knows, the people who can’t quit know, and so does Lana Del Rey: The internet is no longer a place you go. Who we are on the phone and in the walking world have merged.
This is why algorithmic time is so disorienting and why it bends your mind. Everything good, bad, and complicated flows through our phones, and for those not living some hippie Walden trip, we operate inside a technological experience that moves forward and back, and pulls you with it. Using a phone is tied up with the relentless, perpendicular feeling of living through the Trump presidency: the algorithms that are never quite with you in the moment, the imperishable supply of new Instagram stories, the scrolling through what you said six hours ago, the four new texts, the absence of texts, that text from three days ago that has warmed up your entire life, the four versions of the same news alert. You can find yourself wondering why you’re seeing this now — or knowing too well why it is so. You can feel amazing and awful — exult in and be repelled by life — in the space of seconds. The thing you must say, the thing you’ve been waiting for — it’s always there, pulling you back under again and again and again. Who can remember anything anymore?