Through a my good girlfriend, I had the fortunate opportunity to see Chris Rock’s Total Blackout Tour a couple of times at a secret showing in Brooklyn last month. And I was thankful to see it there at the BAM Harvey theater because it was nice intimate setting and a Very Black experience. Oils, cocoa butter, Spike Lee, Toure’ (Toure’ is always there. LOL!) and like my husband said when we went the second time, Black people show out when we show up for someone we love so the show is in the audience as well as on the stage. It’s just beautiful all around.
The set was hilarious, and though I haven’t always agreed with him, I’ve loved Rock’s comedy for a long time. Many of his jokes from this set stayed with me long after we left but there’s one that I’ve wanted to write about for a while, one that I keep turning around in my head. Like all good jokes, it’s obviously more than that.
Rock, in his candid discussion of his divorce (he was married for 16 years!) and the reasons he felt it occurred, said that his parents has been married for 40 years, and yet because of technology and social media, he feels that he was had more contact with his wife for more of time that they were together and that essentially he and his wife had been together longer than his parents. LOL!!
He went on to explain that his parents didn’t see one another all day and when they finally saw one another after work was done they had “pertinent” information to share with one another. There was no face timing, texting, liking, posting. They were apart for hour and hours in which all manner of things could have happened to them or their families (especially in pre-civil rights America) and they would not have been able to get word to one another until the end of the day. Rock said that with technology and social media, there’s no way to miss anyone these days and that missing people you love is important for the relationship.
It really made me think. Social media is always touted as a tool for connection across so many barriers, real, imagined and constructed. And in many ways I believe it is. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve never been more estranged, isolated or lonely as a society.
Here’s a good example, still related to the Chris Rock Show.
I’ve been to plenty of live show tapings before but this was the first time ever that I was at a taping where we were all asked to lock up our phones in a pouch that could only be unlocked again once we left.
Oh, it’s like that?
I was game as long as I could still keep my phone on me. LOL!
I’m not gonna lie. I’m a photographer so the first time I went with my girlfriend, my eyes were consuming the set like a meal at various points during the beginning of the show, thinking of all the amazing angles and shots I could have taken. But slowly I began to just take in my surroundings, take in the show and be fully present.
The second time I went with my husband, they took longer to seat everyone so I just looked at all the people shuffling in, the beautiful hair styles, the unique and eclectic outfits, the way people moved, greeted one another, waving at friends, dancing, yelling, hugging, dapping. Plus the people in our section smelled amazing. LOL!
During one of the opening sets by a Black woman comedian I tapped the woman sitting next to me who was there with her bae and asked if she had heard the comedians name. She didn’t and tapped her bae to ask him. She said the woman’s name was Janelle James.
No biggie right? If I had my phone I probably would have just googled what I made out phonetically. If I had my phone I might have been in it the whole time and hardly ever looked up and anyone. If I had my phone I definitely would have been bitching about the time and when the show was going to start.
By the time Rock came out the entire audience was on their feet clapping and cheering. No pictures could be taken, no recording, none of the material or anything about the experience could be leaked. And I think it was a great advantage for everyone.
All of the jokes, stories and setups I remember from Rock’s show were from memory alone. Of course I did see it twice but still. LOL! I made a list of notes afterward.
I know I use social media to avoid and distract myself from a lot of things. But sometimes I’ll be watching YouTube or scrolling through IG and it will hit me that I’m only looking at moments in time, edited moments, some contrived, including my own. My husband will tag me on ten things throughout the work day but when we get home, we’re often tired and rarely ever talk about any of the stuff we posted. We hang out in different spaces of the internet and so much happens, so much information is consumed and shared that it’s not possible to process or discuss it all. It’s not even necessary. More than half of it is just junk food, click bait, fodder, waste.
When did so much waste become so much more important than finding time to connect with one another?
Rock joked that after all this social media engagement with their SOs women have the nerve to say something like “We never talk anymore!” to their husbands.
“I know everything you did today!” He said. “And I know how everybody felt about it.” LOL!
But do we really know how we feel? I have to schedule time to check in in real ways with people I care about these days in ways that used to happen all the time when I was younger. Most of my high school years, before cell phones and Facebook, I spent actual time with people I cared about. If we hung out, it would be to really interact, to share an experience, to sit down and eat together. There was nothing virtual about it. And there were a lot of feelings! LOL!!!
Nowadays it’s like my feelings only get explored deeply with another person when I’m sitting across from my therapist or once in a while with my good girl friends or when I make concerted effort to ask bae when he’s available to have a “talk.”
These days, a lot of our connecting has become all click click, swipe, post, like, thumb up, send, cut, paste and then every once in a while, eyes will meet. Every once in a while, a real conversation will occur. Through social media, we consume waaaaaay more tragedy, intimate detail, emotional drama, celebration, protest, and a variety of other complex performances, and behaviors than we ever could have before.
And it’s exhausting.
But it’s become normalized.
Chris Rock is a youthful 52 and I can tell from what he posts on social media that he’s more of a in the moment kind of guy. He’s had to get used to social media as a business and promotion tool so that he can stay current and relevant and I totally get that. I mean despite everything I’ve just said about all it’s ill, there is so much I love about social media. And as someone who has taken on a second job working for an organization run by a courageous entrepreneur, I can attest to how important it is to be consistently visible on social media platforms because much like the physical spaces we used to socialize in before, social media is literally where the major hangouts are now.
Hanging out in virtual reality. Jamiroquai was not lying.
This brave new (keeps getting newer LOL!) social media world is our new normal, just like every technological advance has always pushed society into new levels of communication and exploration of connection. We can’t go backwards. But times like this, sometimes it’s really a relief to have someone else to take your phone away, lock it in a bag, give it back to you and be like, now enjoy the fucking show.