I walk into a coffee shop and I am greeted with faces obscured by phones and laptops. No one bothers to look up. Typing, the sounds of fingers endlessly typing on screens fills the room. At the counter, three baristas walk past me as they, too, fiddle with their own devices. “Excuse me?” I say, waving at each of them. This is me making my presence known in a world dominated by touchscreens. Finally, a woman acknowledges me. She takes my order and asks for my name. “Adrian,” I tell her. “Say again?” she asks. I take a deep breath, but she doesn’t hear me. She’s back on her phone. I turn around and see everyone else in line doing the same.
In a world where modern technology affords a greater sense of connectivity, we are strangely disconnected from one another. We are tiny squares in fluctuating screens, easy to scroll on by. Social media has become a platform to promote the best versions of ourselves. Our accomplishments, our engagements, our pregnancies. I myself have a Facebook, and, like so many others, I frequently post about my personal achievements, all for the sake of a systematic “like.” Clicking. Constant clicking. I am amazed by the click of a mouse. I might as well shout at everyone around me, begging to be noticed.
At the coffee shop, I ordered an iced coffee. I check my phone while I wait. After a few minutes, my order comes sliding across the counter. I can now get back home and resume my work, which consists of me staring at another, larger screen, typing the day away. I grab my drink, but I’m disappointed to see the name scribbled on the cup. “Angel,” it says. It seems the barista misheard me.
I searched my name on Google and discovered that there are over 200,000 people who share my name. One of them is a fashion designer. Another, a football player, a lawyer, a teacher. Alas, it was on the 8th page of results where I found a heartbreaking truth: I am but one Adrian in a sea of Adrians. I wondered, then, if any of them had trouble ordering a cup of coffee.
As a writer, I strive to make a name for myself. Recently, I had an article published in an online magazine, an article that came and went in less than a day. On Facebook, I got three likes. This didn’t surprise me. Months earlier, I witnessed the same thing happen to a fellow burgeoning writer. She had articles published on a similar magazine. Almost immediately came the outpour of comments like “Good job!” and “Congratulations!” More praise came her way as she went on posting more articles. One day, the comments stopped. No clicks. No likes. Her audience suddenly found her uninteresting, no longer trending. Yet, she continues to write. Most of her articles go virtually unseen. And still, she writes.
It’s not just her. We are all struggling to matter, to stay relevant. We want our voices to be heard, our stories to be remembered. Someone to notice us. The sad thing is, no matter what we do or who we become, it all comes to pass in the blink of an eye. We are but one among thousands of others who share the same name. We are a tiny photo in an archive of millions of portraits. We are little specks in an infinite universe.
In some small way, our lives do matter, even for just a moment. Our actions, our words, mere cogs in an ever-growing network of actions and words. If this is our only shot at making ourselves matter on a planet hovering in the void, then we might as well make a huge raucous. One great big shout across the universe.
It’s a new day. I walk back into same coffee shop and I am greeted with familiar phones and laptops. I head over to the counter. The barista meets my eyes for a brief second. I take a deep breath. “Adrian,” I tell her, “my name is Adrian.” She nods. I think she heard me this time.