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Carrie Brownstein And The Cell Phone Effect


Carrie Brownstein


I was reading another Carrie Brownstein interview in the Guardian, and, if she covers a lot of grounds, the first part of the interview struck my attention, as Carrie talks about the way we use our phones now:

‘Oh my God,’ she says to the interviewer, ‘I love that you have a flip phone. I’m just about to go there. That’s why I started wearing a watch. You go on your phone to check the time and it becomes this five-step process: email, Twitter – I’m like, why am I checking Instagram again? Could there be a family emergency on Instagram? No. Is this a portal into world affairs?’

Oh my God, Carrie is so right about this, I am thinking about this every time I pick up my phone, and this unfortunately becomes more and more frequent, you just want to check something, and yeah it is the whole grand tour from Facebook to Twitter to emails and back to facebook in case another personal message would pop up, and I didn’t even know about my ‘others’ folder (messages sent by people who are not my friends) until this morning. I wonder what we were doing before, all this time spent on incessant checking an ever growing number of inboxes, Yahoo, Gmail, Youtube, Reddit,… it never ends, but can we go back to the flip phone with the grey boring screen as Carrie suggests? I guess not.

‘I feel like it’s got to the point where I’m processing information about Syrian refugees or the latest cat video exactly the same way, because I’m mediating it through the same screen,’ she continues. ‘Everything begins to share the same value. Everything’s a stage.’

I don’t know if the Sleater Kinney woman came up with this observation just by herself, and I wouldn’t be surprised because she is smart, but she is once again right on. It is what is happening right now, a recent study showed that empathy is alarming decreasing among young people who use constantly their phones. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000, showing a close association with phone use, while narcissism has of course reached new heights for the same reason… This article by Dr. Sara H. Konrath sums up everything and it is devastating. Obviously an edited online conversation will never be the equivalent of a face to face conversation because we hide so much of ourselves behind our phones… So did Carrie Brownstein read about these studies or did she find out herself?

She also talks about her coming out, a difficult experience but a piece of cake compared to now: ‘It did [feel like an invasion of privacy]. Though when I think about it from today’s perspective, I’m actually so grateful that I was not subjected to a chorus of opinions on social media. The only person I had to deal with was myself. It felt invasive, but not public. There was no commentary on it, except in your own head. Better that it happened in 96.’

I guess social media will soon ruin what is left of our humanity, and there’s no return to the flip phone despite Carrie’s wish. Meanwhile Carrie Brownstein’s new book, ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ will be published next month by Virago.

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