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Please Turn Off Your Cellphones

Playwrights’ Corner
People texting

As a millennial, I have grown up with the ability to have information and communication at my fingertips. For example, if I want to find a new light wash jean jacket to go with my light wash pair of jeans so I can walk around with an amazing jean on jean outfit and have everyone walk by me and think, “Wow, look at how much jean that guy has on!”  I can reach into my pocket, take out my cellphone, and find somewhere instantly. I can then take a photo of myself in a mirror and put it on social media for all of my “friends” to see.

Being so used to gathering information quickly and easily is great, but it also has its drawbacks. Such as the demise of the millennial generation’s attention span.

I’ll take you through a “hypothetical” scenario:

I’m sitting in my bedroom surfing the Internet — coasting between sports blogs, the Huffington Post, Upworthy, cute pictures of penguins, cute videos of babies playing with iPads, and of course, occasionally glancing at (but not reading) a New Yorker article that my Mom told me to read three months ago.

While all of those tabs are open, what I’m dedicating most of my attention to is this quiz on Buzzfeed that’s supposed to tell me where I should live. When I finish the quiz I chuckle to myself for a good three minutes because I get Santa Fe, New Mexico — I’ve never even been there! Wow, the Internet must know me so well.

But then, once I’m done chuckling, I start to get nervous and sad because what if I’m living in the wrong city? Maybe the place I should really live is Sante Fe, New Mexico!

Thankfully, just before I begin to truly reconsider every decision I’ve made in my life up to this point, my phone alerts me of a new message with my personally selected text tone, “tiptoes.”

I reach for where I think my phone is, but all I feel are my sheets. My phone isn’t within three centimeters of me which means it’s either, duh, lost, or I’m hearing things inside of my head – duh.

A couple side notes:

  1. We live in a world where we need our phones to be at most a finger tip’s distance away from our bodies at all times. If that’s not the case, we feel like the world is going to end. I mean seriously, if I don’t have my phone nearby how am I supposed to check the weather in Barcelona where my friend Wallace is on vacation?
  2. I promise that all of this will somehow relate to theater. You just have to trust me, and I will trust you to continue reading to the end.

So, I do the only logical thing and begin to rip apart my room as I try and find my phone -- because without it nearby how am I supposed to know how long it would take to walk from Brooklyn to Miami? I’m really curious about that right now! -- I am tearing off my sheets, tossing pillows across the room, lifting up my mattress just in case while I was laughing hysterically during the newest episode of Broad City my phone somehow slithered under my mattress. At this point my room looks like a Raptor from Jurassic Park ran through it, but I have found my phone. It was in my jacket pocket.

I look at the text. It’s a YouTube link from my friend Sasha, and immediately I think to myself, “UGH! I do not have time for this!” Which is a really weird thought because in reality, I have SO much time for this. I actually have all the time for this.

I click the video, and onto my screen pops an image of a dolphin next to a piano. Okay, so at this point I’m mildly curious.

Here are some questions I have:

  • Is that dolphin going to play that piano?
  • Are we underwater?
  • Wait, is that a real dolphin?

Before I click play, I obviously do the most important thing. I glance down to the bottom right corner to see how long the video is.

Eight minutes! WHAT? Are you kidding me!? I can’t watch this video, that’s way too long. (Are you still reading?)

I put my phone down and, for some reason, I’m kind of pissed at my friend Sasha for sending me an eight minute long video.

Here are some thoughts I have for Sasha:

  • Sasha, do you think I don’t have anything to do?
  • Do I come across as someone who has time to watch an eight minute long YouTube video?
  • Most importantly, what is that dolphin going to do with a piano for eight minutes?
  • Can’t you send me like a highlight video instead? I have THINGS to do!

I don’t watch the dolphin / piano video. Instead, I start looking at a bunch of beautiful salads on a food blog (one of my aforementioned “things to do”).

But I’m still thinking about the dolphin.

Ten minutes later I grab my phone, start the video three minutes in, and watch the dolphin play the piano. It’s incredibly moving and beautiful. I enjoyed the video so much that after it ended I watched three more dolphin related videos. I then realized I know nothing about dolphins, so I started to watch a dolphin documentary on Netflix and fell asleep on my pillow while drooling.

I hope you’re still reading because now is the time when I tell you why theater is not only important for the millennial generation, but for all generations in 2016.

There’s nothing wrong with dolphin / piano videos, but there isn’t a commitment that comes with watching them, since you can be doing 300 other things at the same time.

What’s so significant about the theater is that it provides us with a space where we can’t have any communication with anyone other than ourselves. We are sitting in a room full of people, but we are completely alone with our thoughts, our breath, and the story. We are making a commitment to experiencing something in that moment without any distractions. These moments are so special because they’re the times when our minds get to wonder, without interruptions, and if we allow that to happen then maybe each time we go to the theater our perspectives will change just a little bit.

Here’s my proposal. Let’s all turn our cellphones off once in a while and go to the theater. I promise all the cat videos will still be there once the play is over.