A theory about smart phones

I have a few job perks. The biggest one is that musicians occasionally drop by and perform Tiny Desk Concerts for the staff. And that’s how I found myself standing, oh, six feet or so from Steve Earle yesterday as he played songs from his new album on his acoustic Martin (I was close enough to read the insignia on the guitar).

And, as people generally do these days, I pulled out my smart phone and took a photo, making sure the flash was off. And then I fired it off to Facebook right on the spot.

What this really meant, of course, is that Steve Earle — yes, that Steve Earle — was singing and playing his guitar six feet away, with no one standing between me and him, but instead of watching Steve Earle and his guitar from six feet away, I was hammering on my smart phone, with my head down, while Steve Earle was playing a guitar and singing — did I mention it? — six feet away.

And it didn’t even occur to me until I stopped typing and looked up that, for the first and only time in my whole goddamn life, Steve Earle was playing music six feet away from me. I also realized that, for the previous 30 seconds or so, my soul had been possessed by the spirit of a drooling idiot.

Lately, I’ve been developing Lilleston’s Theory of Interactive Intelligence Inversion. The theory: Smart phones make you stupid. They now handle actions that once required you to flex your brain — like getting directions, or making restaurant reservations, or remembering where the cops set up their speed traps.

Eventually, you incorporate the phones into your life so much that you start to think of them as an extension of your arm. But they’re not. They’re mini-sized computers, and they’ll suck you right in if you let them.

So if Steve Earle starts singing and playing guitar six feet away from you, it’s probably OK to take a quick picture. But after that, for the love of all that is holy, put away the phone.

  1. Brian Mabry

    I noted something similar while at Chicago Blues Fest last weekend. I snapped some photos with my digital camera but for the most part I was soaking up being 10 feet away from some awesome acts that were playing for free (at least, it wasn’t coming out directly out of my pocket). But at the same time, I was repeatedly struck by how many folks were enjoying the performance through a 2×2 inch screen. It is almost as if it wasn’t real unless it came through their phone camera.

    BTW, Steve Freakin’ Earle – that is WAY cool!

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