March 4, 2024

When I started writing this column, my intention was to compose an ode to the audio sent by wasap, play postmodern, plunge a knife into what everyone hates —“audios are the end of communication,” practically everyone I asked told me— and, rather than delve into the sore, fill it with glitter. I tried what almost everyone who wants to be happy has no choice but to do sometimes: romanticize horrors. I remembered the first time I thought I saw a flash of poetry in an audio: I was 22 years old, I was selling life insurance over the phone in a parched Madrid and a possible client left me a message on my mobile explaining why I was not going to be able to buy the sure. In that lament of precariousness and apologies, the bells of the church of La Concepción, in La Laguna, Tenerife, which was where the client lived, slipped through. The same ones that I had heard every day from my parents’ house until I went to live in Madrid. Tears came to my eyes, of course. I kept that message and listened to it from time to time. In my attempt to extol our decadence, I wanted to bring up the audios that my friends have sent me in the last year that I have lived outside of Spain, telling the beauty of hearing the clink of glasses, the noise of Madrid at night, while in my life was noon, it was 20 degrees below zero and the snow did not stop falling. I tried to bring these moments to the fore, to leave the muck in the background. But I could not. Because, as much as it hurts me, a large part of the communications that I send and receive through social networks are the result of the unraveling of lives, of rushing and wanting to cover everything. I do not deny that there are times when I continue to extract beauty in the audio of a friend who walks down the street, drowned, on the way to I don’t know what stresses. But if I walk away and observe, a question scratches my brain about this game of omnipresence that we are chasing and chasing us: “Are we going to keep doing this until we die?” The question is not mine. It appears in little is said about thisby Patricia Lockwood, a brilliant and thorny novel published in Spain by Alpha Decay.

When I think about the audios, the postin the ideas thrown by handfuls, signals that we launch hoping that someone will pick them up, I reformulate the phrase that June de The Handmaid’s Tale in a bedroom closet, a phrase that called for an inner strength to keep going. Nolite te Instagram bastardes carborundorumI mean, don’t let some idiot on Instagram upset you. Let’s not fool ourselves: behind every photo of water, sun, summer and friendship posted on social networks, there is a cry for help of greater or lesser intensity. The infinite audios are a howl for help that asks to put in order that unmanageable mass of ideas, that tangled skein. I say skein and think of that marvelous photo of Almodóvar helping his mother sort the wool, his straight hands placed one in front of the other and the red wool winding around both. And it occurs to me that, if it is necessary to untangle, that work will have to be done in conversation of flesh and blood.

Little is said about itor, the book by Patricia Lockwood that I mentioned before, perfectly conveys the overwhelm and the false sense of abundance that social networks and communication through them offer. It begins with a list of everything that its protagonist finds in the morning when he opens “the portal” (a kind of social network that displays content): “Close-ups of artistic manicure, a rock from outer space, the compound eyes of a tarantula, a peach-in-syrup-like storm on the surface of Jupiter, Lyou potato eaters, by Van Gogh, a chihuahua perched on an erection (…)” and ends the paragraph by asking himself: “How could it be that the portal conveyed that feeling of privacy, if you only entered when you wanted to be everywhere?” This last question takes us to that feeling of false omnipresence and control of the world, which the Korean-German philosopher and essayist Byung-Chul Han describes in his book no-things. Bankruptcies of the world today (Taurus Publisher). “Given our quasi-symbiotic relationship with the smartphonesays Han, “this is now presumed to represent a transitional object.” This is how the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott calls those things that allow a small child to make a safe transition to reality. According to Winnicott, transitional objects (a stuffed animal, a blanket, a box, any object that the baby shows a preference for and that calms him down) build him a safe bridge towards reality, towards the other. The childish—childish?—fantasy of having the world under control. This leads us directly to the experience with the mobile phone: our voice launched towards an interlocutor who must listen to it (although perhaps it does so by accelerating the speed, turning us into squirrels), our jokes exposed in networks, our brain drinking information, the mobile phone as a drawbridge towards a frightening reality, the audio as a desperate call —mom!, mom!— that begs to establish a contact that does not become so at all. I meet someone who I have spoken to many times through audio on Instagram, pouring out joy and warmth for each other. The meeting is lukewarm, full of mutual shyness. “I thought we were friends”, I think later. But not. Nothing is solid and tangible. “The distinction between true and false has been leveled,” Han writes.

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In the middle of writing this column, my cell phone suddenly breaks. I don’t know how long the situation will last. Freedom. Although I also get a slight dizziness at times, a tingling in the phantom limb, invisible at the end of my right hand. Practical life is full of communicative stumbling blocks. I feel like a dodo, a wounded Iberian lynx, the last thylacine. It seems to me that if the situation lasts one more day, I will disappear. When they finally fix my phone, I go to pick it up, and, full of joy at once again possessing the world in the palm of my hand, I fall. I fall because I go, of course, looking at my mobile, being everywhere. During the stumble, I float between two worlds. And immediately, falling on the sidewalk, I am more than ever in one place: the ground. That blood that begins to flow from my knee is that of my body with me, that of my mind with me, telling me: “Be here.” I take a photo of the wound and send it to a friend.

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