driving

A Million Digital Pieces: A Cell Phone Addict Speaks Out

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I recently came across a tweet from the Huffington Post that caught my attention: “Distracted Driving is Rampant across America.” I clicked on it because I am – sigh gasp blush – a part of this rampant craze sweeping the country. I’ll even go so far as to admit that I can’t even remember the last time I got behind the wheel without my iPhone within texting distance (e.g. in my hand). But that’s not even the worst of it. Because I am currently suffering from an even more all-encompassing condition: Distracted Living.

I’ve had an unhealthy attachment to my phone for many years now. Pretty much since I got my very first Samsung my junior year of high school in 2003. Back in those dinosaur ages, my phone was considered awesome because it was in color and I could download specialty ringtones. (Pretty groovy, huh?) It didn’t even have e-mail, let alone Facebook or Instagram. Just good ol’ fashioned phone calls and text messages. But even that was enough to get me hooked.

A decade later, I need my phone the way Snoop Dogg needs marijuana. Or A-Rod needs steroids. Or Grandma Myrtle needs her slot machines. And I don’t just mean that figuratively. Because according to David Greenfield, the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction,* cell phones actually create similar responses in the brain to drugs and gambling. Just thinking about receiving messages can raise dopamine levels, and actually hearing that “ping” or seeing that banner notification releases even more. That’s why most of us find it so difficult to put our phone in the trunk when we’re driving, even though we know we should. Heck, just typing that made my eye twitch.

While the dangers of Distracted Driving are pretty frickin’ obvious and difficult to argue – YOU COULD CRASH AND KILL PEOPLE – the ramifications of Distracted Living are somewhat less pronounced. But much more insidious. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  1. Distracted Living is bad for your love life.

Ever go on a date and both of your cell phones are on the table? Or maybe you’re able to keep it in your purse, but some time around the middle of eating your filet mignon you absolutely must excuse yourself to the bathroom to check your Twitter feed in a stall? This has happened to me. A lot. And it keeps me from having a fully connected experience with my romantic interest. Perhaps one of the reasons I’m still single. Fail. (And don’t even get me started on phones and sexy time. I’ve definitely been making out with a guy and the second I hear my hear that buzzing all I can think is What if it’s my agent?! Mood. Killer.

  1. Distracted Living interrupts your sleep cycle.

I only recently began switching my phone to silent mode instead of vibrate when I turn off the light at night, but even this doesn’t prevent my cell phone from screwing up my REMs. My brain is so desperate for Instagram likes that I now find myself waking up every few hours like an infant in need of breast milk. Last night I reached for my phone not once, not twice, but three times. As if the activity on Snapchat at 3am is more important than my dream of marrying Josh Hartnett. NOPE!

  1. Distracted Living causes you to miss important moments.

The other day while one of the women in our short film was dancing, I was so busy looking for my phone to try and take a picture of it that I missed the moment entirely. Oh, the irony. And although it wasn’t the end of the world, (I watched the second take), imagine if this happened while my future daughter was taking her first steps. Or my grandmother was taking her last breath.** Even just missing little things like plot points in a movie because I’m checking a Facebook comment are unfortunate, and can make for a confusing / less meaningful evening.

  1. Distracted Living hinders you in your purpose.

Whether your purpose is to fight Ebola or raise a family or write a super cool blog of random essays, texting/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Vine/Gmail/Whatsapp/Snapchat/Any Other Social Media Platform will not help you with this. Sure, it can help spread awareness, but it will not actually lead you to a cure, or feed your children, or put words on the page (except in this case, since I’m writing about it. Oh man, too meta.) If you want to actually accomplish something beyond retweets and likes, it’s important to maintain focus and stay dialed out. I’m gonna go out on a limb and bet that Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t take breaks from his cello every five minutes to check his Galaxy S5.

Okay, so this all sounds pretty horrible, right? Well, it is. Take it from someone who just checked her phone no less than 15 times while writing this essay. It’s taking everything in me not to look at it right now. ARGGGGG.

But here’s the thing. And this is important. As debilitating as Distracted Living can become, it’s never too late to overcome it. If Robert Downey Jr. can go from drug addict to Iron Man, I can certainly go from iPhone abuser to person living in the present. In fact, I already do it naturally every time I go overseas.*** But I don’t want to have to cross an ocean every time I wish to experience Focused Living. Which is why I’m going to break my addiction.

From today onward, I’m committing myself to small steps to rewire my social media riddled brain. Starting with that most serious of offenses: Distracted Driving. My phone is going in my purse which I’m zipping up and putting in my backseat. It’s not like I don’t still have Bluetooth for all those “emergencies.” I’m also going to leave it behind when I’m working out. I don’t need an update from CNN touting the benefits of exercise while I’m in the middle of exercising. (Plus, the sweat makes it difficult to use the touchscreen.) And instead of having my phone next to me while I’m writing or working on sides for an audition, I’m turning it off and practicing Attentive Creating. That way I won’t-

Oh shoot, my mom’s calling. TTYL!

*I wonder if they offer outpatient services… I should probably go look it up on the Internet and then make a phone call.

**Capturing this would be super creepy. But you know what I mean.

***Something about the new surroundings. And the time off work. And the cost of an international data plan.

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Learning to be Patient

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Wait for it… wait for it… keep waiting… just a little longer… stop going crazy… wait… almost there… so close………….. Hold on – what was I waiting for?

I have never been good with patience. I’ve never even been okay with patience. In fact, I’m downright awful when it comes to that heavenly virtue. If you’ve ever been in a car with me behind the wheel (or in the passenger seat, or in the back), you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve just never understood it. I mean, what is so @%*# difficult about pressing your foot on the gas pedal?! Clearly you have some place to be, or you wouldn’t be in a moving vehicle, right? (Unless you’re my friend Katelyn, perhaps the only person I know who loves joyriding her non sports car in LA). Wouldn’t you rather be at your destination than ruining the earth’s atmosphere and making me miss the preview to the sixth Iron Man film? Just, ughhhhh.

Given my enduring restlessness and pain with being able to endure restlessness and pain, one would think that I would have chosen a profession with a slogan other than “Hurry Up and Wait.” One would be wrong. It seems I have gravitated towards an acting career – the ultimate test in patience – like a prostitute drawn to a convent. Imagine it: audition, wait, nothing. Audition, wait, nothing. Audition, wait, callback, wait, nothing. I can feel my General Anxiety Disorder flaring up just typing it. Then finally, you book (YAYAYAYAY!!!), you get to set, you wait 10 hours, pour your soul out, and go home. Then you wait three years for it to screen one night only at the Silverlake Indie Alternative Do It Yourself Film Festival at the same time you’re tray passing at an event for Billy Bob Thornton’s band. Awesome. It’s like a special form of sado-masochism that Sartre knew all too well about. And I’ve subjected myself ten years and running…

But hustling for a decade in Hollywood is nothing compared to waiting for that other elusive Godot: Mr. Right. If all the research I’ve done on soul mates is correct, then I’ve been waiting 28 years to find him, ie my whole entire life, and that’s a long time. Like, a lifetime. My lifetime. Of waiting. Okay, perhaps “waiting” might not be the best word to use here. Maybe looking. Or searching… Desperately seeking? The point is, my eyes have been on the mythical prize for ages, and gosh darn it I’m ready. Do you hear me universe?? I’M READY!!

* * * * * *

And just like that, he appeared. Dark-haired, handsome, brilliant, funny, compassionate, charming, perfect. I actually leapt out of my seat that first date, knocking my wine over in the process (“Wow, you have amazing reflexes,” he commented as I blushed.) It all just felt so easy, so right. Our second date lasted 12 hours, crushing the 8 hours spent with Mr. Santa Monica, and I knew, I just knew. The first night I slept at his house I buried my face into his chest and wondered, like Rhianna, Where have you been all my life? “In waiting,” came a response from somewhere deep within my soul. For what?! I thought angrily, envisioning all of the years we had already missed together. “For this moment.” Ah, well, better late than never. He’s here now, and that’s all that matters… right?

Nope. Apparently there are some other things that matter, too. Like timing. Because no matter how perfect he might be for me, and how hard we may have fallen for each other, sometimes Life just gets in the way. And as much as I want to argue with Life, I know I will not win. And frankly, I don’t really want to win, because the alternative is Death, and he sucks way more. So after only a couple of blissful months, I just have to accept the little and big things Life is throwing down, like crazy business partners and unemployment, respect the space Mr. Right needs to deal with those things, and (wait for it)… wait. ARGGGG!!! ::sobbing::

* * * * * *

But maybe it’s time to reframe this whole waiting business. Sure, the reality might be that I’m waiting for grandpa to speed up, waiting for the right role, waiting for the guy, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do something in the meantime. How awful to sit around in bored agony when I can be listening to a TED talk on the radio, or reading a Tennessee Williams’ play, or pleasuring myself on a pole (dancing). There are a million wonderful things I could be doing at this moment – hiking, writing, going to an art museum, making a web series no one will watch (www.matchmakersinc.net). Anyway, wasn’t the whole reason I wanted to be an artist in the first place because I wanted to create? Well, now’s the time to do it. In fact, now is the only time. Ever. Oh man, this is getting deep.

And as my mind takes me down the rabbit hole of space-time continuums and the Power of Now, I realize that I’ve been going about patience entirely wrong. Because patience isn’t about waiting around for things to change, it’s about accepting the current circumstances and choosing to see the positive. Like, for starters, being alive (you win again, Life). Yes, taking a break with the guy of my dreams I’ve been waiting 28 years for blooooows, but so what? What’s the point in worrying about something out of my control that’s not even guaranteed? It is what it is, I only have this moment, so why waste it waiting?* Time to go out there and do something! Basketball! Jogging! A movie to escape this oppressive heat!! YES!!

Alright, let’s see what’s playing… Hmmm… I wonder if he still wants to go to “A Most Wanted Man” together… I better wait and see.

 

*I know I’m using a boatload of clichés, but that’s what happens when you sit around heartbroken and sick for several days reading self-help websites and brainyquote.com