“OMG. Are you coming out tonite?”
“OMG. I’m sitting right next to you!”

My wife and I were on a date last Saturday night, in the trendy Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park. A nostalgia trip for us, years ago we’d gallivanted on these same streets, though they were infinitely sleazier then than they are now.

In fact, this warm June night found the neighborhood teeming with comely twenty-somethings, paired up or in groups, roving through its many cafes, clubs and restaurants. Outdoor seating at a premium, the fenced off sections were jammed. Driving slowly by these sidewalk quadrants, I was reminded of aquariums filled with colorful, flashy fish.

Ah, summer in the city. Is there a better time and place, especially for the young and beautiful? The promise of romance hangs in the air like pot smoke -illicit, pungent and intoxicating.

Too bad everyone is staring into iPhones. The behavior is so ubiquitous at first I didn’t notice. But more people are holding onto phones than drinks. Whether on a date or sitting with friends, it would seem they all prefer the company of their devices. It strikes me as sad, even pathetic behavior. Assuming everyone is trying to hook up, why don’t they just look up? In this regard, I do not envy the young. Frankly, I think they’re screwed.

“I’m coming…I mean I’ll be right there.”

Granted, I’m as guilty as anyone of spending too much time on my machines… but not outside, not on a balmy Saturday night in the big city. Frankly, this isn’t about manners. If both members of a date are gazing into phones instead of each other’s eyes just who is dissing whom?

When I was a boy, my mother would admonish me for watching TV on a beautiful day. “You’re wasting the day. Go play outside!” Sure I’d bitch about it but once I was out there I knew she was right. The whole world beckoned. There were fish to catch. Frisbees to toss. G-g-g-girls!

Nowadays, boys and girls bring the inside outside. Not only doesn’t anyone tell them not to but they ain’t boys and girls either. These are adults, with jobs and cars and passports. The world is their oyster! Unfortunately, it’s also their Droid.

Beautiful… But not GQ beautiful.

In the September issue of GQ there are hundreds of fashion ads featuring hip, trendy people and not one of them is interacting with a smart phone or PC. And yet, in the reality that’s all these people do. I was taken by this dichotomy between the idealized world and the real world.

If technology is so NOW then why isn’t it conceptually a part of these ads targeting the very people who most want to be hip, sexy and cool? I Tweeted the question and wasn’t surprised by how much interest it created. There’s something very telling going on here. But what exactly?

Here’s my theory. It’s simple but it’s also unsettling. Despite (or precisely because of) our addiction to smart phones and computing, we don’t want to see ourselves that way. At least not according to GQ. Nope. The magazine has page after page of young, beautiful people NOT interacting with technology. Instead they are rowing boats, camping, driving convertibles, kissing…In other words, doing all the things we aspired to do before we fell into our iPhones.

Walk down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile or NYC’s 5th Avenue and what do you see? Real versions of these same people tethered to ear buds, faces buried in their smart phones. Girls walking and texting is so rampant they should put up signs.

I’m no exception I spend so much time at my computer it has caused marital problems! Yet, the addiction didn’t phase me until I saw all those pages of people not on their computers. It was like an epiphany. We are not only addicted to our machines but we are in denial about it as well!


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