Friday, August 17, 2012

Masturbating The Mind: Society's Ungodly Obsession With Cell Phones

It was three years ago in the Hamptons when I first saw a couple having dinner and completely ignoring one another as they both sat and fucked with their cell phones. They must have been all of 22. I'm assuming by the end of that summer, one of them sent a text wondering why they had nothing in common.

Since then, mobile phones have, no doubt, become all the more obsessive for many, like a third hand constantly masturbating the mind. Last November, I joined the iPhone revolution; and sure, I love my phone more than ever before... downloading fab fart apps, Fatify & Oldify, using a handy alarm clock app that includes the weather and dozens more... but I tell you what: I am still in no way married to my damn phone. We're friends, but hardly as intimate as I've seen so many become.

Let me share two recent instances that about had steam coming out of my ears: My friend "A" visiting from another city and I were walking through my Brooklyn Heights nabe on a beautiful summer afternoon. I was attempting to have an animated conversation with him, but found it impossible, since he was always 10 paces behind me, with his eyes glued to his iPhone. When I insisted he put the damn device in his pocket and make eye contact, he reacted as if I'd held a gun to his noggin and said, "Gimme all your money." Seriously. Boo hiss!

I find the second grievance even more repugnant. Dear friend "L" recently came to my apartment for dinner, whom I hadn't seen in weeks. As I tried to catch up with him about life and subsequently share a movie together on TV, I literally had to ungrip his palm from his iPhone so he would stop searching Grindr for potential hook-ups... and not even in my hood, but in his own nabe... the next day! Hello, I'm here, living and breathing in the now. What the fuck?

That's why I take delight in an initiative from Beverly Hills' restaurant Eva, which has created a viral splash (more here and here) by offering a 5% discount to patrons who check their cell phones at the door. Their mission has less to do with loud, obnoxious customers talking on their phones than something much more organic: According to FoodBeast, owner and chef Mark Gold is hoping the initiative will allow guests to sit back, relax and interact with their table mates and meal, sans outside distractions.

"It's about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone," Gold told Southern California Public Radio. "We're trying to create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company."

So far, fewer than half of the eatery's customers have taken advantage of the deal, which shows how obsessive the mobile connection has become. So far, I have maintained enough sanity to depend on my mobile as a tool, a convenience and... a phone. If it ever becomes a necessity that replaces social interaction, I hope someone will cut all three of my hands off. *