Robert Duvall says acting is simply “talking and listening.” If that’s true, then connection is an essential part of the equation. You can’t actually listen to someone with your head buried in an iPhone or while staring at the text of your scene during class. Connection requires something deeper. It requires presence, eye contact (ideally), and active listening. But we constantly seek connection through the wrong channels in our acting and in our life. Enter…Tinder.
I just joined Tinder.
I’m always late to the party. But maybe that’s a good thing, because with the exception of those people who’ve found their “match” on such dating apps, I’m using it more as a social experiment to figure out human nature. (And I’m feeling a bit like Mary Shelley’s monster through the process. Fire. Is. Bad.)
Everything that technology (and thereby our phones) claims to be creating is some sort of innovation to enhance greater “connection.”
It makes sense. We’re hardwired to connect. It’s in our DNA. It’s part of our tribal consciousness that’s been carried down through the millennia. Get kicked out of the tribe, you don’t survive.
And at a personal level we all want to have more meaningful interactions with people who inspire us and challenge us and make us think (and feel) in ways that are new and exciting and sometimes scary.
That, right there, as Duvall says, is the art of acting (and of all great art) as well. Whether it’s going into an audition or being on stage acting opposite someone, what we’re really trying to do is connect. That’s the experience we’re after, whether we’re aware of it or not. And when we do, we leave an impactful impression on the other person who’s experiencing us. Everyone’s in it to feel something.
When I was on my first Tinder date the other night, it actually was going well. He was much funnier than I could’ve imagined through our Emoji exchanges, and Chemistry.com would have said we had just that. Chemistry. Connection. And yet, when I went to the bathroom, the Pavlovian dog in me turned back on my Tinder app to see just who else responded to me (don’t judge!), and lo and behold, I noticed that my date was “active” on there at the same time! “Brian. Active 1 minute ago.” Busted. (It took me three minutes to pee.)
This brings us right back to the conundrum of those phones. So we go to them to “connect” (and thereby to feel), but what they (and their apps) end up making us do, is feel the opposite of what we’re intending. We end up feeling disenfranchised, alone, insatiable. We become addicted-looking for more “hits” or “likes” or “matches” or affirmations in some way, and none of the algorithms or computer-generated optimization “facts” that are accumulated about me or my “likes” or you and our “common interests” can in any way replace what we’re going there for in the first place: goddamn real connection.
And that’s created through something I would call the human variability factor-presence, one’s essence, how emotionally available and engaged we are with our own feelings in a very conscious way.
Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, when asked what was the easiest form of communication for him said, “Do I feel like I’m an expert in having a normal conversation face to face. Absolutely not. That’s just not my natural state.”
Is it becoming not our natural state because technology is replacing it with a form of communication that is not human? (Maybe Mary Shelley was on to something 200 years ago.)
I don’t know. I just got on Instagram. Hit me up there and we’ll see.