Remember in [the movie] Sixteen Candles when Molly Ringwald’s character Samantha (Sam) confesses via secret note that she’d, like totally bang Jake Ryan? She drops the paper on the classroom floor over her shoulder expecting her BFF Randi to pick it up immediately. Like most of her classmates, Randi is bored shitless and nearly faced-down on her desk. Buried in her poodle-permmed-mullet, she misses the communication entirely, but Jake sees the whole thing go down and snakes the paper with his foot. After reading about Sam’s secret desire to rock his jock, his dreamy foxiness gets a curious chubby and, viola! – let the John Hughes movie magic ensue.
Classic prehistoric social media.
If you were around in 1984 to enjoy this instant classic on the big screen, you can attest – there wasn’t a theater in existence that didn’t feel the collective weight of gasps from mortified teenage girls everywhere when Sam discovers her secret is out. The shame equivalency scale, being right up there with sexting the wrong phone number by accident today.
Back when apples and blackberries were just fruits, there was no internet. We sucked up countless hours gabbing on our land-line phones, tying up the line as our mom smoked Marlboro Menthols, standing over a pan of Hamburger Helper while The Huxtables kept us company in the distance.
Text was something you hand-wrote in a book. And although we didn’t have lightening speed technology, the high school milieu was still rife with teenage drama and over-sharing after too many wine coolers.
In middle school some of us girls had slam books - a spiral-bound note pad we filled with answers to random questions ranging from who our favorite actor was (Scott Baio), to if we had ever gone to second base (sadly, no). The keeper of this archaic social media gem was in charge of the questions, and the idea was to pass the book around to our friends in school. After a few days, our cafeteria conversation was elevated and we all felt a little closer in sharing personal fragments of ourselves. And if you’re Sam, you end up sucking face with Jake Ryan perched on top of his dining room table while the warm glow of your birthday-candles flicker beneath you.
Who would’ve thought two decades later, we’d be able to pull up that exact movie scene on a tiny gizmo within seconds, on something that fits in the palm of our hand? Technology is amazing. And I gotta say, as a person born with the awesome DNA of addiction, my dopamine receptors have been going OFF these days, thanks to the instant gratification served up from my delicious Smartphone.
But it’s not just us hot messes who are getting sucked in. The vortex of gigabytes is an equal opportunity saboteur of time and human connection. And why not? It’s easy to get lost in the concept of popular chaos. It fills empty space, rescuing us from being alone with ourselves having to marinate in the messiness that is our life. Why feel alone for a second, when we have Twitter and Facebook in our back pocket? Why wait in line at the grocery store, sit at a stoplight or by yourself or at a restaurant when your date leaves for a minute (and probably Tweets about the night from the bathroom stall)?
My man Louis C.K. explains it so well that his recent clip on Conan is going viral (at the time of this post, over five million hits in six days):
“That’s why we text and drive. People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second – because it’s so hard.
Just be sad. Stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck. Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments. When you let yourself feel sad, happiness comes rushing in.” – Louis C.K.
We’ve come a long way from passing hand-written notes in class. And progress is a beautiful thing. But we could all stand to keep our social wheels greased without the safety net of our cell phones – especially when it comes to just being in the moment with ourselves – no matter how shitty some of those times will be.
Shitty is always followed by awesome.
Irony is nothing if not wrapped in suffering, dipped in joy. Like the sad fact that my Tweet-flirt to my favorite funny man will probably never be seen by the dude himself:
After my shameless pledge of devotion, I followed the theme of C.K.’s bit and unplugged to sit with my loneliness for the night. And wouldn’t you know, when I woke up the next morning – I felt fucking awesome.