What have I become? That is the question and I worry about what the answer might be.
I was without my iPhone for twenty-four hours last Tuesday. I’d dropped it and damaged the screen and couldn’t get it fixed right away – and for the first few hours it was as if I’d lost an arm. No calls, no texts, no camera, no music, no emails and no social media once I’d left the flat. The confusion this caused my brain was staggering.
Today I read that Mr. Sean Parker, a founding president of Facebook, confessed he had “no idea what he was doing” at the time of its creation, going on to say “It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways.”
There’s no “probably” about it, mate. You’re either getting on with your shit or you’re not. This life of mine was nothing but a wellspring of creativity, optimism and healthy productivity before social media decided to take me hostage. Now I wake up and reach for my phone immediately and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one who’s doing it.
It’s not that I’m just simply paddling in the shallow waters of followers, shares and thumbs up – though my ego is obviously as big as the next person’s – it’s that as a self-employed individual, potential employers find me through my social media accounts (note to reader: full list of social media handles and the address of my website can be found at the foot of this column) so you have to keep some sort of presence there.
Another thing that Mr. Sean Parker said which wound me up today is that he himself has actually given up using social media as he finds it too much of a “time sink”. What a man Mr. Sean Parker has turned out to be. I think he should be chained to Facebook for the rest of his life for creating that monster – an eye for an eye and all of that.
Yet something took hold of me later in the evening, on the day I was without access to my phone.
I read a bit, I chatted a bit, I stared at the night time sky instead of the screen of my phone. In fact the very next morning I woke up and had coffee at my neighbourhood bar, The West – named after Mae, not Fred – and actually had a pleasant conversation with my neighbour Douglas – eye-to-eye instead of eye-to-phone-then-eye-to-eye-and-back-to-phone. Something strange had taken hold of me. An odd feeling. A feeling I hadn’t had since the early Noughties. I was present.
By noon on Wednesday, still without phone, I started to notice the Autumnal colours of the trees that line Hope Street – the road on which I live/write/sometimes fester. Then by late-afternoon I was witnessing a flock of flying geese, followed by a galloping herd of wild buffalo, culminating in the sight of the rising moon over Brooklyn – somehow larger, grander and more ethereal than I had ever noticed before. It wasn’t quite full, of course, but it was waning beautifully against the clear, deep blue, mid-November sky. Glorious.
Of course, I may well have added my own embellishments to that last paragraph, but you get the drift of it.
Seven o’clock came, at which point I cycled across the Williamsburg Bridge – the lights of Manhattan beckoning me over to it (it’s true what they say – you never, ever tire of seeing that cityscape) where I collected my phone from the infamous “phone doctor” in the East Village – an incredible man who in any self-respecting society would probably be out there curing cancer given the right education and opportunity.
So. I suppose it’s now Sunday from where I am sitting and I’m back carrying my phone, texts, camera, music, emails and social media around with me. Mostly. For works sake, of course. But something has changed and I do think it’s for the better. And I ought to thank Mr. Sean Parker, formerly of Facebook, for his sound advice. Too much of it is, as he puts it, a “time sink” – and who knows how much time I have left on this beautiful planet we share? That, my friends, is one question I cannot answer. But I’m determined to spend more time with the rest of this planet – and not to being doing it through screen of my phone.
Matt Roper is a British comedian based in New York City. His relationship with Lush goes back to 2011 when he appeared before the muddy festival-goers of Lushfest, returning the following year to curate the line-up of the comedy stage. As he travels around the world, he shares his musings with us here in a series of writings - a sifting of thought from a restless but always seeking imagination.
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