Enough, say some parents. Among today’s most prominent is comedian Louis C.K., born Louis Szekely. His five-minute rant against smartphone culture on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in September has received more than 5.7 million hits on YouTube. He appears to have struck a nerve.
“I think these things are toxic, especially for kids,” C.K. said, in explaining why he’ll never let his daughters have iPhones.
One problem that he sees is hijacking of empathy by incessant texting and tweeting in one’s formative years. “Y’know, kids are mean,” C.K. says, “and it’s ‘cause they’re trying it out.” Unfortunately they don’t see the hurt in the faces of those whom they insult by text. When they say “You’re fat,” for example, and see the other “kid’s face scrunch up,” they learn better, says C.K. “But when they write ‘you’re fat’, then they just go, ‘mmm, that was fun, I like that.’ “
Similar arguments are made by such other experts as Stanford sociologist Clifford Nass, who describes Twitter-age teens and tweens as suffering from “emotion atrophy” as a result of insufficient face-to-face “practice in observing and experiencing true emotions.”
C.K.’s rant shifts usefully from conventional Luddite bashing of new technology — and the dangerous idiocy of drivers who text behind the wheel -- into an appreciation of a rare joy in this hectic age, the experience of being bored.
“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something,” he says. “That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person.”
A similar point is expanded upon by writer-researcher Evgeny Morozov in “Only Disconnect: Two Cheers for Boredom” in the Oct. 28 New Yorker. From a range of social critics over the past century, he resurrects the notion of “radical boredom,” an escape from modern hustle-bustle to “surrender oneself to one’s boredom on the sofa.”