Wednesday, November 8, 2017
The Cell Phone Perversion
Intending to provoke, I compare excessive cell phone usage to masturbation.
Masturbation is a decent metaphor for withdrawal from interpersonal engagement.
Not that it’s a bad thing.
By definition, masturbation is auto-erotic. It is eroticism by and for yourself.
Sexual intercourse, or any conjoint sexual activity, requires the presence of another person.
The following scene led me to compose this inflammatory missive:
While walking across Pasadena from another clinic to my offices, I encountered a crowd of around 30 people, mostly men, gathered across the street from City Hall.
Every single one of them, without exception, stared slack-jawed at their cell phones.
Not a single one of them looked up at the bright blue sky, at the pretty architecture of the surrounding buildings, at the landscaping, trees, plants or birds.
Or, at me.
They all started at their phones, blocking the sidewalk.
None of them even looked up as I drew closer.
Instead, and to quote the comedienne Paula Poundstone, they stared at their flat things.
I felt irritated, annoyed, angered, as I approached. With my loudest shaming, passive-aggressive voice tone, I shouted:
Shocked at the request for discourse, or perhaps fearful of intercourse (with requisite homosexual panic), the crowd briefly gazed in my direction.
I walked through them, biting my tongue to keep my mouth shut.
Their attention lasted a nanosecond.
As I came within an inch or two of several of them, the pasty-faced cell-phone-entranced-zombies resumed staring at their phones.
Of course, you’ve seen the same scenes.
You’ve walked into the romantic, candle-lit restaurants populated by couples with florescent-lit faces staring at phones rather than each other.
You’ve ridden on elevators where everyone’s looking down at their mobiles.
You’ve bumped into others and had others bump into you.
Should we celebrate the fact that, if you’re reading this, you have at least have not yet been killed by someone texting while driving an automobile?
Intercourse is a bitch.
Even discourse ain’t easy.
The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott wrote:
It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found.
Herein lies the rub, no pun intended:
You become intimately involved with another person, and risk increases exponentially.
They may dislike you.
They may leave you.
They may die.
You avoid intimacy, and;
You remain unseen, unknown, unnoticed.
You don’t matter.
Therein lies the disaster of the unfound.
Mobile phones are amazing tools. They offer spectacular access for connection, communication, and information. But people tend to use their phones to withdraw, avoid, isolate.
Genitals, in a sense, are amazing tools as well. Self-stimulation feels great, but it too promotes withdrawal, avoidance, isolation.
Perhaps we could all benefit from taking our hands from between our legs, from looking up from our flat things, and peering into the eyes of the other:
Hello out there! What’s up? I see you.
It’s so nice to be seen!
Yes! And I see you, too.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP