Hey You, Put Down Your Phone

Put Your Phone DownIllustration by Noa Emberson

Let’s talk about dinner with friends. Like, how the hell do you do that normal anymore with iPhones around? You’ve seen a dinner table lately — shit got weird. Not long ago, people used to converse and their faces would literally glow because goddammit they had something to say and ooooo they just had to say it! People got animated. But there’s a different glow on people’s faces lately. That hideous, synthetic, soft-white phone-glow. Look at ‘em. Look at us. Dead eyes, mouths slightly agape, dinner with zombies. Crickets resound over a cold, unusual silence. Occasionally someone snickers to them self (thanks, Fat Jewish), before it’s forgotten in a millisecond with a quick swipe up. Thumbs poke involuntarily, scrolling, prodding, fiending for the next pic, for more content, for more information — it’s infinite. And that’s a f–king problem because the thing about infinity is that there’s no end. We will scroll on forever and never ever be sated. Dinner-pun, bitch.

What excites us anymore? What turns us on? Can we wait for anything? Do we actually miss stuff anymore or is everything just within the tips of our fingers? What is the opposite of this? What if we all turned off?

I know, I know: The only person worse than the five zombies at the dinner table checking their Insta feeds is the holier-than-thou dickhead that notices and says, “C’mon guys, can’t we just have one meal without our phones?” We all know that guy sucks. Plus he probably checks his phone in the bathroom on the can. But we can be better. Zombies can re-animate.

Once upon a time, people had our full f–king attention spans. Once upon a time we used to get kicked out of restaurants for being loud and obnoxious. And how fun was that? Know who doesn’t get kicked out of restaurants anymore? Surfers checking Instagram. Yes, we’d play drinking games and truth or dare and tell dirty jokes. Once upon a time before iPhones we hog-tied Taj Burrow in the middle of the night on a boat trip in Indo and beat the living shit out of him. [See …Lost’s On the Road…with Spike] Once upon a time we actually wondered about things because we genuinely wanted to know, and we’d ask the group around us what they thought since no one could Google it. Remember opinions? God, we had opinions and they couldn’t be disproved so easily because no one could fact-check us in two clicks and also they were f–king opinions.

I’m just as guilty as the rest of them. I share full responsibility. But in a day (Now) where humanity has never been so informed, so interconnected, so close to each other and every single answer, at the end of the day, is it making us stupid? Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking this far in? (Point please?)

Well the results are in amigos and there’s a new study published each week: We’re getting stupid. But mostly addicted.

According to the scientists, much like a variety of substance addictions, cell phone addiction is an attempt to repair one’s mood. The incessant checking of emails, sending texts, tweeting and Web-riding act as pacifiers for unstable individuals providing them temporary solace. Studies have even found that the average college student spends nine whole hours a day looking at their phone. That Instagram is an actual “Dopamine Loop.” Which means we seek gratification (the next photo in the feed), instantly receive it, but instead of satisfying us, this only makes us seek more, rinse, repeat. Even our email, text and FB dings are actual Pavlovian cues which alert us that a reward is coming with the dings speeding up our heart rates.

And yet. A recent study shows that even more gratifying than receiving said-reward is the anticipation of one. Believe it or not, there is much more brain activity in waiting, in wondering, in not-knowing-yet — than in the actual prize.

Indeed, we based this entire issue on the concept of instantaneous, we-give-you-content-NOW and brought it to life. For three weeks we actually created the first ever living, breathing, surfing Dopamine Loop called The Factory and by-God the outcome was in fact…dope.

And yet. Look at you. Reading words. Flipping pages. Engaged as f–k. Lord knows it ain’t easy. There’s so much out there and it’s so easy to get it. Why wait, right? Why debate at the table — the answer is in the palm of your hand. Why? Because we’re humans. With so much more depth than the 1s and 0s in our phones. There is so much more to learn about each other and the best way to do it is always live. Looking each other in the eyes. IR-f–king-L. (It’s why we still send writers and editors on trips).

Play Jenga, play the Animal Game, arm wrestle, tell a joke, tell a lie — just put the phone down for a second. There’s something more mysterious, more immediate and less stupid about each other in person.–Beau Flemister