Personally, my favorite part of comedian Louis C.K.’s appearance on Conan last night was his story of being overcome with emotion while driving and listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” and pulling over by the side of the road and crying it out. I can relate to that.
But this was all in the context of a bigger discourse on preserving essential parts of our humanity in the digital age that has inspired kudos across the internet. He started with a reliably hot-button issue: kids and technology, particularly mobile devices. And he sounds like an expert in development—or at least an engaged father:
I think these things are toxic, especially for kids…they don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build empathy. You know, kids are mean, and it’s ’cause they’re trying it out. They look at a kid and they go, “You’re fat,” and then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and they go, “Oh, that doesn’t feel good to make a person do that.” But they got to start with doing the mean thing. But when they write “You’re fat,” then they just go, “Mmm, that was fun, I like that.”
C.K. is spot on concerning the apparent lack of consequences and social reciprocity that comes with digital communication and leads to things like cyberbullying or the unwise sharing of delicate photos. But he also goes further, putting forward an argument for fully engaging not only with other people but with your own feelings—hence the “Jungleland” anecdote. With all the stimulus available to us from smartphones and the society that produces them, he says, “you never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product, and then you die.”
That’s pretty bleak, but then Louis C.K. is a pretty bleak thinker. His conclusion at least looks towards the future while being practical in a sort of metaphysical way: “So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.”