Carolyne DeBlois

Turn Cellphones Off, for a Better Connection

Photo by Mario Miotti

Last year I attended Lighting in a Bottle Music & Arts Festival in Bradley, California, for the very first time. I was a Coachella veteran and thought I knew everything about festivals and what they could offer. Truth: I could not have been more wrong. A random speaker series on the first day drew my attention, it was titled “The Art of Letting Go”. It sparked something in me. I felt I had so much clutter in my life. After this talk, I recognized the clutter was in the palm of my hand.

That’s right. I’m talking about how much I learned from doing the impossible act of actually disconnecting for 5 days under the Lightning sky. I turned off my phone after hearing that speaker and I left it off. I still took photos on a disposable camera and hijacked a bunch of memories; but with the phone off, I learned more than I could ever have imagined.

It’s critically important to take time to truly be alone

In order to curate change and growth in our lives we must make the space by cleaning out old baggage. This can be literally taking the clothes you’ve had since high school to the donation box or shutting off the constant murmur of social media for a few hours. How are we supposed to hear all the important messages our psyche has for us if whenever we are alone, we reach for the friends waiting in our pockets. Our phones allow us to constantly connect with other people; but, when we do this we avoid critical conversations with ourselves. That is why mindfulness has exploded in the last few years. We are realizing that connecting with that inner voice is crucial to the communication of our authentic self into the world.

Louis CK said it best on an episode of Conan back in 2013: “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That is what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there. Like this. That’s being a person. You gotta check, because, underneath everything in your life there’s that thing, that forever empty— that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. It’s down there. And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car and you start going “Ohhhhh no. Here it comes…” that I’m alone, like it starts to visit on you, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad just by being in it. That is why we text and drive… but people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second.”

I get it being alone sucks, at one point at Lighting last year I danced off from all my friends and I didn’t have my phone. At first I thought, this sucks. I have to be alone at this festival? But as I danced around, a lot of stuff started to come up, and I realized I was having this intense conversation with my psyche that I had been stalling for way too long. I danced beneath the lights and trees of the Woogie Stage finally saying hello to myself again, not the person I was for everyone else, but the true self and the person I wanted to be. In some ways this was hard. I didn’t like all the parts I saw, but I realized I was ready to look.

Photo by Mario Miotti

You don’t need anything more than what you can fit in your pockets

The week before heading out to Bradley, California (the location for Lighting in a Bottle), I had moved across Los Angeles. This move had made me realize how ridiculously materialistic I was. I soooooo relied on all of my things. Letting them go released me to see how little I needed in order to be truly happy. All I had with me at any given time was: my water bottle, light-gloves (I mean, I AM at a music festival and it was cold at night), $20 in case I got hungry, and a lighter- which is the best way to make a new friend because someone ALWAYS needs one (plus then they might smoke you up); oh yeah and a little green to share. Living this way was extremely liberating: it allowed me to ‘notice’ people. It was partially through this realization- of how much I loved observing and experiencing people, that I grew into the writer I am today.

Maintain an adventurous spirit

The festivals I had been to before were massive: Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Hard Summer. I had never been to something like Lighting in a Bottle before. At music festivals I was always obsessed with keeping track of the time, ensuring I made it to my favorite sets: I was constantly checking my phone. It wasn’t until last year at LIB that I realized how much this was hurting my experience of the music. I would get pulled into my phone and text people to meet up. I was blind to all that was going on around me in real time.

Photo by Mario Miotti

On the first day at LIB, my best friend and I went off together and climbed up to the meditation lookout to watch the sunset over the dried up lake. Others were already perched atop this small cliff and some came up to join us as we sat there. It was quiet. No one was on their phone. Murmured conversations hushed as the sun dipped below the western mountains. The last tendrils of golden light reached upwards and a young man behind me began howling at the moon as it rose in the other direction. We immediately all began to howl together: a pack of wolves present to nature, to each other, to this moment. I will never forget how alive I felt; and I will always carry that with me, that sense of presence and adventure.

Music knows no judgement and is the most connective tool

The times I felt most connected at LIB, both with myself and my friends (old and new), was, of course, when experiencing the music. Without my phone, I was hyper aware of exactly where I was: screens are addictive and distracting.  I may not have remembered every track played, but I remember the feeling of those moments much more intensely. I think we lose that connection when we are snapping pictures to share with our friends.

This is why I am so excited to see Lane 8 perform this year under the lighting sky. His new tour concept “This Never Happened” is about exactly this: the release of our constant virtual interconnection, into a connection with the present moment. As he tours he asks fans to dispense of their devices. “Somewhere along the way, we as a society have lost the ability to experience those special moments. On the rare occasion that they do happen, we scramble to grab our phones in time to capture them – but those moments cannot be truly captured – and they don’t need to be broadcasted or recorded. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is fully appreciate what is happening in that room, at that moment, with those people around us.” – Daniel Goldstein (Lane 8).

See also: Mix #204 By Lane 8

He is asking one of the oldest philosophical questions- in a new way. Instead of,  ‘If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it?’ He forces us to question, ‘If I don’t post this to social media, does that mean it didn’t happen?’ Our lives have become tied to these ‘likes’ of approval, this constant validation. If we don’t post something does that make it any less real? You don’t need a video when the melody of the moment is etched on your heart. This may sound cheesy as hell, but we all know its true. I have heard so many people, including myself, wish we had the same scene that underground ravers had in the 90s. Back then it was about deeply connecting through the music and making new friends, maybe trading phone numbers on scraps of paper to call someone on their landline to meet up for the next party. Now we’re all flakes. We can text 10 minutes before a meet up to cancel. Lane 8 is asking us to remember this phone-less feeling, that intimacy. His newly released “Fingerprint” captures this: as the song slowly builds you rise to meet the melody. I cannot wait to be 100% present to his music this year at LIB.

This sense of weightlessness can extend beyond the festival grounds

My experience at Lightning last year changed the way I wanted to behave in the world. Sitting beside the pagoda one night in an Adirondack chair, gazing at the stars and watching people climb into teapots, I contemplated connection. I watched others wander off from groups and stages to take a moment alone with this spectacular view. I had the feeling Louis CK described, that immense sadness. It came from nowhere and I wept. As I wept I released all this tension I had been holding onto. Suddenly, joy began to creep in. I may be alone, but I was undeniably myself. I stood up feeling this sense of empowerment in my discovery. I could be alone completely, and that was totally okay, in fact it was necessary.

Photo by Mario Miotti

I went off to end the night to some bass at the Thunder stage and made a decision. I was going to continue this healthy habit of letting go of my phone. No, I am not crazy. I still have a cell phone, they have become a part of our world and we cannot ignore them. We can, however, choose not to let our addiction to them control us. Last weekend at Further Future, Eric Schmidt, head of Alphabet Inc, spoke on the problem with distractions and he described phones as the new cigarettes: like cigarettes, phones are an object we can hold in our hands which make us look “cool” to a crowd. It’s become a cultural habit to senselessly scroll through our feeds whenever we are in line or at a red light or just bored. He explained to us that to deal with his addiction he turns off his phone every evening while he enjoys his dinner with friends or family.

That is exactly what I have expanded into doing since Lightning last year. I begin every day with my phone off. I set an alarm for two hours and after that I turn it on. For me, this helps me begin my day without distractions and allows me to remember what is truly important: the present. I challenge you to dispense of your phones this festival season, whether you will be joining me at LIB or any festival around the world. These events are so much more than just a chance to escape your job and get away for the weekend and party. Allow yourself to grow through the experience in new ways. Then later, share how awesome it was; but give yourself the opportunity to be fully present at that time. My guess is that you will find a way to connect even deeper, both in reality and through technology, once you make the space to self-reflect.

Carolyne DeBlois @carolyne_deblois

Her article, titled ‘Lighting in a Bottle: 5 things I Learned Last Year’, was originally published in Deep House Amsterdam.

BIO- Carolyne DeBlois is an actress and writer currently living, writing, and dancing in Los Angeles, CA. For more of her writing please follow her on Instagram @carolyne_deblois