Comedian Louis C.K. has built a reputation as an astute and hilarious observer of culture and the mundane details of modern life, and his recent 6 minute commentary while visiting Conan O'Brien about the distracting and destructive nature of cell phones recently struck a nerve online...
Cell phones and children:
"I think these things are toxic, especially for kids. It's bad, they don't look at people when they're talking to them, they don't build empathy.Cell phones and how they distract us from our own emotions:
I was in my car one time and a Bruce Springsteen song comes on. … I heard it and it gave me a fall, back-to-school depression feeling. It made me really sad, and I go, OK, I’m getting sad. I’ve got to get the phone and write ‘Hi’ to 50 people. I started to get that sad feeling and I was going to reach for the phone, and I said, ‘You know what, don’t. Just be sad. Just let the sadness stand in the way of it. And let it hit you like a truck.’
I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much and it was beautiful. It was like this beautiful… it was just this… sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because when you let yourself feel sad your body has antibodies. It has happiness rushing in to meet the sadness. I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip, you know?
The thing is because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away…
The topic of when the right time to introduce children to technology is still being debated. And although I mostly agree with C.K's observation of youth today and their misdirected attention toward a screen instead of the world around them, the decision of when to give a child/teen their own cell phone is an even more hot button topic I believe is best left to parents themselves to decide, specific to their own understanding relationship with their child.
But I did take note of what Louis C.K. had to say about the knee-jerk need to continually check our phones when the itch of loneliness, boredom, or even sadness arise. Many smartphone owners, including myself, find ourselves digging into our pockets whenever a moment of quiet or boredom presents itself (one just needs to wait for the end of a movie at a theater to see how quickly we must be stimulated by our phones; the near instantaneous glow of phones illuminate immediately once the credits appear).
The criticisms Louis C.K. lobs at cell phone culture aren't new, but they've obviously touched upon a growing sentiment that people are giving up too much for the sake of "staying connected, while ironically drifting apart from not only personal in-person interactions, but even our own emotions. It's food for thought.
Over the weekend I found myself trying to reset my relationship with my phone and permitting myself to keep the iPhone put away, practicing quiet observation of the world around me rather than relying upon the phone to fill in the voids between interacting with others. Some would call it being bored, but I find watching the world around me anything but boring. The day felt satisfyingly longer, the itch of "needing to know" subsided, and although I probably cannot shut my connected life all day, every day, I thank Louis C.K. for reminding the importance of knowingly disconnecting, if even for just a weekend. If you haven't watched this Conan O'Brien clip above, I highly recommend it.
(Image: YouTube/Team Coco)