I recently watched a clip of Louis CK on Conan where he talked about not getting his kids a Smart Phone. I’ll embed the video so I don’t have to paraphrase it.
The basic gist is that we are constantly reaching for technology when we find ourselves in a moment of being alone.
It really is sad to think that we, as a society, are too hooked into social media and technology that we can’t sit with our own thoughts for five minutes without wanting to text 20 people just to get a response.
I’ve found myself in the same situation, but to Louis CK’s point, I wouldn’t just randomly text people while I’m in my car driving. Besides being illegal, I’m somewhat of a luddite when it comes to texting (I have 250 text limit). I tend to only text when it’s absolutely necessary. There are times when I go a little crazy and get close to that limit but it’s still usually because there is something that actually needs to be addressed. And there are times I just want to say something because I am feeling that loneliness, too.
What did we ever do before cell phones or the Internet allowed us to be only a few bytes away from getting a hold of someone? We used to hand write letters and mail them. Now, depending on the distance to that pen pal, it could be a week before they actually receive the letter, read it, and then write you back. Then, you’re talking two weeks from the time when you mailed that first letter until you get a response. And we were OK with this process. Do people even write letters to one another anymore? Do people correspond in handwritten, random life event telling letters to each other? Isn’t that what email has become? Hasn’t the postal service been relegated to delivering holiday or occasion cards to friends these days? Today, as long as we have access to technology and the Internet we can reach out and simply say HI, send a picture, or share a video. And in the time it takes to say “Reach out and touch someone” we can get a response.
There are times in life when we need to be alone. We need to be with ourselves. We spend so much time building profiles and likes and showing the world who we are. Do we even believe it? Are we really our online selves? Do we like the things we REALLY like, or do we like the things that make us more likable?
Maybe being in the spotlight is what has destroyed our sense of selves. There’s a concept in sociology that our self image is simply made up of perceptions of who we are by other people. And we are constantly looking for that approval. We constantly put our lives out on the Internet, looking for someone to respond. I do it. This blog is evidence enough of that.
I primarily write to hear myself type. It’s a writer thing. I like to write to TRY and keep my skills somewhat more than blunt. I don’t have nearly the amount of time needed in this world to hone those skills. I also don’t have the life that would deem anything I write worth reading, but I do it. Sometimes I think about things in Pop Culture that amuse me and I write that. That’s definitely a “look at me” moment. I’m showing off my Pop Culture prowess in an effort to prove to the world that I am talented and clever and need a job in the industry. Well, if anyone actually this stuff they would say, “Yeah, and you wonder why no one reads your stuff?”
Other times I reflect. I reflect on what life has thrown me and I try to make sense of the things in this world by way of Pop Culture. Finally, I write from the place just below my gut and above my ass. That’s where my head usually is. These are things I write for myself. You are just privy to them. But, by posting them, knowing that people aren’t reading them, I’m focusing on that alone time. Half of my hour long commute involves me frantically switching stations for good driving music. Revelation; there isn’t any on today’s stations. The other half is me thinking. If I’m not listening to NPR, I have the radio off most commutes. I run through thoughts in my head. Concepts. I look for meaning and worth. I also argue a lot. Fictional arguments or debates with myself are the norm.
And while I probably never miss an opportunity to comment on something, I try to listen. Granted, I am probably a HUGE offender in the Facebook First Responder club. Every time that little green light goes on next to one of my friends I immediately think of something to strike up a conversation. I’m like that kid that shows up at your house the first day of summer vacation and doesn’t leave until the street lights come on. I am Dennis the Menace. I am trying to not be alone. And while I am not alone, I have a family after all, the times when I do these things are when I am usually by myself. Technology has given us the greatest gift, engagement. We never have to be alone ever again, and yet sometimes I think we are more alone than ever. After all, technology has removed the biggest obstacle to being alone, physical presence. We don’t have to go to stores and engage with other customers or employees. We can just shop online. We don’t have to go to bars or public places to meet people in person. We have Match.com. Hell, we don’t even have to meet down in the park to play chess. We have online gaming. Dennis the Menace just squatted on your newsfeed for the next 20 minutes. Being alone means you have to deal with yourself, though. And when you are alone, do you like what you see?
Strip away the opportunity to post a lyric, a video, a quote, or to comment on someone elses life and who are you?
That’s what you need to find out. Alone is a good thing. Alone allows you to feel life. Alone means you’ve got nobody to impress but yourself. And if you can do that, then you are ready to not be alone.