Just let the sadness stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck


I’m left handed but my phone usually sits to the right of me, close by, and usually I’ll check it every 20 minutes or so for a message or some kind of news or event or really, some kind of happening. Sometimes I realise I’m just holding it and it gets warm in my palm, a hot metallic broadcast to and from the world. Often I’ll just unlock it without meaning to, and stop, and lock it again. Until the next time.

Imagine if a bell rang every time my right hand reached for it. Imagine if someone was counting my checking and watching and locking and unlocking.

The other day I threw it across the room to land with plonk on the armchair, so I could have a break from my constant relationship with it. It’s not like throwing a part of yourself across the room, an arm or a heart. It felt like getting in, shutting the door behind you and finally being able to drop the heavy shopping bag on the floor.

It’s all new, isn’t it, and things are changing so fast that we have no time to learn good ways to use them.

I love what Louis CK says in this clip because he identifies what is often happening when we reach for our phone. I read this piece by Daniel Engber about how Louis is wrong (clickbait, anyone, Louis is never wrong) and that there is something of the Luddite in his accusations about the smartphone, in a similar way to the people who claimed that television would make us stupider or that telephones would mean we would never be peaceful again.

Yes, it is easy to point to new technologies as essentially mistrustful compared to the legitimate, “antique” media we’ve got used to. There are all sorts of things we do because we are bored or lonely or sad, not all of them dysfunctional or pernicious. So while blocking out the “essential sadness of existence” with a smartphone might not be that different to blocking it out with anything else, and while there’s no reason to assume that the future of Facebook is a boot stamping on the human face forever, Louis’ is still a decent reminder to ask ourselves exactly why it is we do certain things.

There is very little social media sharing that is not in some way connected to the deep parts of us. The profoundly secure as well as the rusty unguarded bits. The need for attention, however temporary, the longing to be admired, the desire to project a view of ourselves, the frightened centre. In our micro interactions with it, in our choice of language and representation, in our choice to blog vs tweet vs write in a private journal vs Facebook vs write a private letter vs write an open letter, is all the neediness and platitudes and nuances inside of us.

Smartphones are not televisions in your living rooms. They’re not even phones in your pocket. The multi-function, connected constancy of them is possibly the most significant technological advance ever in terms of human psychology.

The internet changes everything.

I will stop writing this.

And then I’ll press publish.


One Response to “Just let the sadness stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck”

  1. 1 john

    That’s the deepest thing I’ve read in some time. Mind blowing.

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