One recent Saturday night I was at a nightclub in West Hollywood. I headed to the middle of the dance floor to shake it a bit to Britney, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, or whichever pop diva was shouting at me from the speakers. When I got underneath the disco ball, I looked around at my fellow dance-floor revelers... and everyone was on their phone! They were all bobbing their heads, throwing one hand in the air, and texting or tweeting or Facebooking or Grindring (is that a verb now?). Everyone was doing something on their phone.
"This is fucked up!" I thought to myself. "All these people in a nightclub on a Saturday, and instead of being present, they are preoccupied with texting someone else who is somewhere else. Outrageous!" I then picked up my phone to text a friend how outraged I was by all the texting.
It doesn't seem right that instead of connecting with the people in front of us, we are on our phones. But I do it. My friends do it. I have some friends who don't communicate except via text. Some don't even like to check their voicemail; their greeting says to text them instead.
There is a whole new and bizarre set of things to worry about when communicating only by text. I went to college, traveled the world. I've written plays. But I've found myself truly pondering whether a text I'd written to a potential "suitor" was better followed by a smiley face or a winky face -- deep thoughts about which emoticon was more appropriate for the situation and what message one emoticon or another would send.
I was always one for a nice phone chat, but I'm afraid I'm a dying breed. When you call on the phone, you say "hi," see how someone is doing, and make plans, all in one fell swoop. But that same conversation over text would go something like this:
My friend, an hour later: "Hey queen"
Me, two hours later: "Gurl! I'm back in town lets get together"
My friend, 45 minutes later: "Cool I'm free Friday"
Me, three hours later: "Friday's not great"
My friend, half an hour later: "How bout Saturday"
Me, 20 minutes later: "Hoe you be trippin you know i gotz a date saturday"
And on and on. Texting delivers your message faster, but a lot of times it can draw out a micro-conversation over a whole day or more.
Now that we have smartphones with us at all times, we can write the narrative of our lives on Twitter as it happens (#imturningittonightbiiitch) and check in on Facebook to let people know where we've been and tag the people we were with. I actually prefer not to let everyone know about every moment of my life, and I'm pretty sure that no one cares if I just "checked in at the West Hollywood Pavilions Supermarket." But sometimes it's not even up to you. I've gone out for an evening with friends to come home to find that I've been tagged and checked in by someone at every stop throughout the night. Someone call S.V.U.! I've been tagged against my will! Luckily you can block people from tagging you, or you can take revenge on them by inappropriately tagging them, like, "Jonny McGovern and 3 others just checked in at the West Hollywood Colonic Clinic," or whatever fun place you want.
Beyond communication, checking your phone is the new social-situation security blanket. Back in the day, if a guy was alone at a club and didn't want to look like a dork just standing there, he could always smoke a cigarette to look like "I'm just chillin', smoking my cig" and not desperately hoping that his friends would come back. The days of smoking in bars are over, but now you can always pick up your phone to check those important messages or tweet "WTFF #wherethefuckaremyfriends" or maybe even just stare blankly at your phone until they come back, so that you wont feel like a dork.
I continually am trying to find a balance between having my phone glued to my hand and living phone-free. But the phone-glued-to-my-hand side is currently winning. That said, I'm not as bad as some people I know. I've seen big groups of people having dinner and everyone around the table is on his or her phone. I've had people start checking Facebook mid-conversation. I've seen guys at gay bars, surrounded by sexy-ass gay men, with their noses in their phones, checking Grindr! But we can't be too harsh about this, because we're all guilty of it. Like me, you might yell and scream that smartphones are ruining our communication and connection one moment and then find yourself #TOTDF (texting on the dance floor) the next.
Check out my video for my new song, "#TOTDF":