Day 3: Escapism with Louis C.K.


Yesterday evening, while waiting for a bus to take me from the Outer Richmond (north-western SF) to the Outer Sunset (south-western SF), I was caught amongst a random bout of rain that started to pour down the sidewalk, leaving me wet and shivering. There was no covering over the bus stop.

All of a sudden, I had the urge to look at my phone. I could look at some Tweets to pass the time, scroll through Facebook... so I reached into my pocket to realize that I was in possession of a flip phone. My urges for my smartphone were so visceral that I had forgotten that I had given it up! And trust me, there is nothing fun to do on a flip phone. After years of intense stimulation from 3D graphics and infinite amounts of different games, brick breaker just doesn't really do it. So I was forced to just stick it out while the rain came down, dripping down my nose and leaving a thick layer of water all over my jacket.

And in reality, it was probably the first time throughout the whole day where I was doing nothing. My smartphone was not going to fill in this gap. I literally had nothing to do but wait.

And it got me thinking, what is the intrinsic value having a moment such as I was, something that we rarely find ourselves doing anymore? I would like to go back to my idea about escapism to try to answer this question, but before doing so, I'd recommend watching this video by Louis C.K., who discusses what I am about to explore:

While Louis is framing his criticisms of smartphones through his fear of them being an impediment on children's socialization, etc., I think his worries can be extended out to people my age, and those who are older. I think many would agree that children do not exactly hold the monopoly on abuse of smartphones. At 1:15, Louis starts to talk about what we could probably call the existential feeling we all get once in a while; intense loneliness and lack of meaning. I know that I have experienced this before, sometimes very intensely. I would go further by saying that one of the reasons why I chose to give up my smartphone for the time being was because I found myself over and over again doing exactly what Louis is talking about: smoothing out the uncomfortable edges of life with our phones. So to go back to my question, I am curious what the effects are of not smoothing these edges out. What happens, as it happened to me last night, when we have to face these ridges in our reality?

I can attest that one of the immediate benefits to not owning a smartphone was this moment at the bus stop, or what I would call a rare moment of introspection. It is not as if I had some sort of epiphany, that would be the wrong way of describing the moment. But what I believe our smartphones do not let us do is to have this important self-reflection that we all so need. Idleness, boredom, and emptiness are scary things, I am the first to admit that. But the more we can face it, the more we can just sit at a bus stop doing nothing, sitting with our own thoughts, "being a person" as a Louis would say, maybe the more comfortable we can be with being ourselves. Maybe the whole point of this boycott of technology is an experiment in self-reflection. My time at the bus stop has actually led me to believe that sometimes we are just plain frightened by what is around us, and our smartphones offer us an intense form of escape and distraction.