To Swipe or Not to Swipe: A Social Experiment On the Effects of Being Addicted to Your Phone

05/19/2015 12:18 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

I just joined Tinder.

I'm always late to the party. But maybe that's a good thing because with the exception of those people who've found their "match" on such dating apps -- I'm using it more as a social experiment to figure out human nature. (And I'm feeling a bit like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster through the process. Fire. Is. Bad.)

Everything that technology (and thereby our phones) claims to be creating is some sort of innovation to enhance greater "connection."

It makes sense. We're hard-wired to connect. It's in our DNA. It's part of our tribal consciousness that's been carried down through the millennia. Get kicked out of the tribe, you don't survive.

And at a personal level we all want to have more meaningful interactions with people who inspire us and challenge us and make us think (and feel) in ways that are new and exciting and sometimes scary.

That, right there, is the art of acting (and of all great art!) as well. Whether it's going into an audition or being on stage acting opposite someone, what we're really trying to do is connect. That's the experience we're after whether we're aware of it or not. And when we do, we leave an impactful impression on the other person who's experiencing us. Everyone's in it to feel something.

But then this brings us right back to the conundrum of those phones. So we go to them to "connect" (and thereby to feel) but what they (and their apps) end up making us do is feel the opposite of what we're intending. We end up feeling disenfranchised, alone, insatiable (we become addicted looking for more "hits" or "likes" or "matches" or affirmations in some way) and none of the algorithms or computer-generated optimization "facts" that are accumulated about me or my "likes" or you and our "common interests" can in any way replace what we're going there for in the first place.

Goddamn real connection.

And that's created through something I would call the human variability factor. The "X" factor. Presence. One's essence. How emotionally available and engaged we are with our own feelings in a very conscious way.

So I "like" what someone says in their 300-words-or-less bio. I'm attracted to their "torso" pic and then when we meet it's like talking to someone from outer Mongolia. (Or outer space.) There is zero connection.

So the very thing that sets us on a collision course with our phones to begin with sends us right back there looking for more. (And I'm not a "conspiracy"-type person at all, but maybe this is what those corporations want: a neurotic, constantly consuming, never-satiated customer who keeps going back to their site to feed more ravenously off the distractions that anesthetize us from real feelings thinking we're going to eventually find what we're missing by staying on their site because, ironically, what we want is to feel!)

Now I know some of you may argue that you've found real connection through these APPS - and good for you. Mazel Tov! (So perhaps you should stop reading!)

But what I'm examining here is looking at it more for the collateral damage if we actually "get" what it is these APP's claim they provide.

You know, connection.

I was on my first Tinder date the other night and it actually was going well. He was much funnier than I could've imagined through our emoji exchanges and would have said we had just that. Chemistry. Connection. And yet, when I went to the bathroom, the Pavlovian dog in me turned back on my Tinder app to see just who else responded to me (don't judge!) -- and lo and behold, I noticed that my date was "active" on there at the same time! "Brian. Active one minute ago." Busted. (It took me three minutes to pee.)

So what does this say about our consumption of data? Our insatiable need to be stimulated and "pinged?" Our collective ADHD and being sold this virtual Insta-something that has seeped into our neurological system and chemically altered us?

Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, when asked what was the easiest form of communication for him said, "Do I feel like I'm an expert in having a normal conversation face-to-face. Absolutely not. That's just not my natural state."

Is it becoming not our natural state because technology is replacing it with a form of communication that is not human? (Maybe Mary Shelley was on to something 200 years ago.)

I don't know. I just got on Instagram. Hit me up there and we'll see.

Originally published via Backstage