I was recently at a New Belgium beer and bike festival (check out my post about Tour de Fat for Chicago Beer Geeks) where my husband and I spent many hours experiencing interactive spectacles, delicious beer, live music and amusements galore.
On our way to see Mucca Pazza, a Chicago based nerd-core band, we encountered a traveling karaoke stage. A mother and her young daughter were in the throes of the final verse from "Total Eclipse of the Heart." A large crowd gathered around the stage. All eyes were on Mom in all her glory.
The Handsome Little Devils were in charge of this stage. One of them, dressed as an angel, invited spectators up to the stage to sing, the other, dressed as cupid, worked the crowd. Cupid interacted with spectators, pleading with them to have a reaction, to "Feel something!" And, of course, we reciprocated with clapping and cheering, until Cupid's "Feel something!" became directed at one man in particular. This man was on his mobile device, and his phone was comically situated directly between his face and the stage, as he must have been deeply involved in sharing his experience with the world.
Cupid called him out, "Put down the phone and live your life!" The man was visibly embarrassed - everyone was staring at him by this time - so he stuffed his phone back into his pocket.
Cupid's plea echoed through the crowd, we looked at one another first in amusement, then in denial (No, no I'm not on my phone! That guy is!) and then in collective affirmation. Yes, this statement applies to all of us. "Put down your phone and live your life!" became subliminal, other worldly, a message from a higher power. Yes, Cupid was right. We should all put down our phones and live our lives.
We all want to participate in the awesome stuff of life. But, nowadays, it seems like the awesome stuff doesn't exist unless we post it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, Google+, and whatever new platform those internet gurus have created. Since we're so absorbed with online documentation of our lives, the importance of actually living is lost. It has become much more important to let others know that we are doing awesome stuff.
This idea links to a previous post of mine, entitled "Be Free" , in which I emphasize the importance of constructing definitive boundaries between ourselves and technology so that we can actually connect with experiences and people in the real world. Leave your phone at home, in your car, or be content that it is resting quietly in your pocket or purse. Turn on Airplane mode to reduce distractions. There are even applications you can download that can track your cell phone use.
The man on his phone at Tour de Fat wasn't doing anything wrong. He was exhibiting behaviors that exist in all of us. Sometimes life requires cell phone use, but most times, life does not. We all have one life to live, and we have the obligation to live our lives to the fullest. Life happens in real time, in real space, with real people and experiences. We shouldn't waste our times on our phones when we should be living our lives, out there*, in reality.
*I realize you may be reading this article on your phone or computer screen, so this world - the internet blogging world - should be referred to as "in here," while the real world is "out there." So, get out there! Put down the phone and live your life!