This article is the first in a 4-part series about how to increase our ability to have meaningful experiences in the digital age.
My past few weeks have been turned on their head. Chris Rock was in Toronto and I scored tickets. Selling out the Air Canada Center, Chris Rock was on point talking about culture, politics and the harsh lessons learned in his divorce. Occupying the stage beneath the glow of a sign pronouncing in bold red “Comfort is the Poison“, Rock had us laughing, clapping and gasping for air.
So why am I talking about this? Because his show was markedly different from any other comedy special I’ve ever attended. Chris Rock has joined with a number of live performers in banning the use of all cell phones from their shows. As I later learned they put your phone into a lock bag so you can’t access it and on the surface, this may seem like your average anti-piracy policy but it’s actually something that comedians and performers, most notably Dave Chappelle, have been talking about for years. That so much of our day-to-day experience is filtered through our phones and the screens around us we don’t get to fully appreciate and experience things. The lesson is to put away the phone and be in the moment.
So did it make a difference? If so what?
Surprisingly, it made a big difference, and I’ve been doing it more often. The four friends who attended Rock’s show left our phones at home or in the trunk of the car and spent the night device free. We were left to experience the show and each other’s company. It was engaging in a way that I had forgotten. Because even off, a phone in your pocket reminds you of everything and everyone else you are connected to. It was like losing a background noise you’d grown accustomed to and hearing your favorite song clearly. That night, amidst the memories of Chris Rock’s signature delivery, was a promise I made to go to a convention and leave my phone at home. Since that show, I’ve left my phone at home when I run small errands or get coffee. I’ve really started noticing more of the people and things around me.
I want to make a point clear. I am not discounting or disparaging new technologies or their ability to connect us in new and better ways. I’m saying is there is a time and place for everything. What I’m saying is that there are cases where connection and experience are not the same things and perhaps one side sacrificing for the other isn’t a bad thing. Try it yourself. The next time you go the cinema, or out for dinner, or drinks with friends, leave your phone at home or in the car. Pay attention to the tiny ways you communicate and notice the things around you. Like me, I hope it makes a positive difference in your life by leaving the technology at home.
For me, I was able to watch and enjoy what was happening on screen without needing or feeling obligated to tune out and share a line or a reaction with the Internet. My next challenge will be to attend a fan convention without my phone and enjoy the moment. Wish me luck. In my next article in the series, I will explain the difference between experience and connection.