Louis CK, Mobile Phones & Empathy
Plenty of stuff has been written about the interweb and mobile technology and why it’s awesome or why it is the predominant force for evil. Personally I think it’s pretty interesting to watch how we’re all changing as a result of it. Interestingly, I have found myself having to remind myself that there is life outside the internet. Oh, chortle all you want, but it’s all too easy to fall into the online vortex. Last week, I came across this video (while wasting time online, obvs. Damnit!) of comedian Louis CK talking about why he won’t get mobile phones for his kids and I practically gave him a standing ovation in my house.
I’m a Louis CK fan and often find myself agreeing with his social commentary, but two things in particular stood out to me:
You don’t look at people when you talk to them and you don’t build empathy
OK, so this was in relation kids having smartphones and this is absolutely true, but I’ve totally noticed this in adults too. It seems harder and harder to just have a conversation with someone now without them faffing with their phone, sending a tweet, checking Instagram, posting a Facebook status update, trading stocks or whatever the hell else is THAT MUCH MORE VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT THEY DO AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT, rather than just look you in the frikkin’ eye. And frankly, it drives me crazy. And I’m not excluding myself from this diatribe. I’ve noticed myself do it and then almost drowned in a pit of my own self loathing afterwards. The phone has become a safety net, an easy out, or simply something that stops you feeling awkward for that 0.5 seconds.
The bit he said about kids not being able to build empathy is spot on too and also applies to adults. There is a massive difference in saying something to someone’s face and dealing with their reaction, versus writing it online and not having to deal with the repercussions at all. I definitely think this is dangerous for kids, but listen, I’ve had commenters on this blog tell me to go kill myself and say insanely rude and insensitive things which they would never in a million years say to my face. People like to give it the big talk that they would totally say the same shit to someone’s face. No you wouldn’t. Stop lying to yourself. Unless you’re a complete sociopath, you have more of a built in filter than that and the fight or flight instinct in most people would absolutely not want to deal with the consequences of potentially deliberately angering or upsetting someone – so please, spare me the big talk.
I have experienced this behaviour from grown ups. Actual adults. So what I’m always amazed by is people who are surprised by the number of teenagers committing suicide or being diagnosed with depression or being cyber bullied. WE HAVE ADULTS WHO CAN’T EVEN USE THIS TECHNOLOGY RESPONSIBLY! Why on earth do you think kids and teenagers would be getting it all right?
You have to build an ability to be yourself and not be doing something
This. A million times, this. I’ve written before about how I like my alone time. But now with smartphones, even when we’re alone, we never really need to be truly alone, ’cause we can check a multitude of apps, chat to whoever we want online. Building the ability to just be with yourself without the crutch (in this case, your iPhone), is essential. Being able to be by yourself and be comfortable with it is such a vital part of the growing process and I worry for people who don’t allow themselves to do it. Man, are you missing out.
Set yourself a challenge to limit your smartphone/internet use a little. Take in the wonders that are around you instead. Look up. Make eye contact. Believe it or not, we did all once survive without this technology and essential human traits were developed as a result. Let’s not lose them.