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Louis C.K. chooses sadness over smartphones

By Tracy Lee Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis is a humorist, writer and speaker. She writes family humor for the Charlotte Observer. Her column appears each Sunday.

A few weeks ago comedian Louis C.K. was on “Conan” talking about kids and smartphones, and that he just tells his kids, no, you can’t have one, it’s bad for you. Brilliant. He also says he’s not here to make his kids happy, just give them the tools to get through a terrible life. I couldn’t agree more.

Because as Louis will go on to say, it’s about feelings. And he’s so right, we’re alive and we breathe and bleed, but we’ve become terrified of feeling a human emotion. We can no longer just sit and be uncomfortable.

Look at people in line at Starbucks. Nobody can just stand there and feel vulnerable, they have to email and text and Facebook. Before smartphones, I used to love waiting in a long line at Starbucks because we were all strangers, we were in it together, and left naked with nothing but our feelings and our Starbucks card. And an awareness of others around us.

Not now – everybody’s buried in their HD device. This morning I’m behind a guy I actually know, and when I say hi, he turns around and has to squint and rock back on his heels, so his eyes can send to his brain that I am real. Good morning. Now he’s gotta come up with something nice, smart or witty to say. Much harder than just “sharing” somebody else’s thought on Facebook. Make it good, because I’m going to have a live reaction to it.

Point is, just be present and feel real emotion, not emotion evoked by a YouTube video. And don’t stuff it down by scooping up your phone. When my son is upset after his football game, I don’t want him to turn to technology, I want him to sit there and be angry or disappointed or hurt or whatever the emotion is. I’m not saying we have to put on Morris Albert’s 1975 song “Feelings,” but can you just let it hit you for a minute?

Louis also points out people are texting while they’re driving because they don’t want to be alone and hear a song or have a thought that might make them sad. “Oh, I’m getting sad …” he says, “gotta get the phone and write “hi” to like, 50 people.”

See, I actually do my best thinking, feeling and crying in the car. It’s the only place that’s quiet and private, where nobody can touch me, talk to me or tell me we’re out of Fruit Roll-ups. And besides, Louis reminds us, if you can let yourself feel true sadness, that it’ll be met with true profound happiness. So true! But we don’t do that, we reach for the device.

Thus, he says, “You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kind of satisfied with your products. And then you die.”

Cue Morris Albert ...

tcurtis@charlotteobserver.com
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