Chances are you saw—quite possibly while perusing Facebook on your smartphone—a bunch of your friends sharing a clip of Louis CK talking about how terrible smartphones are. But the comedian's rant is missing an important point, writes Daniel Engber on Slate. Sure, we all agree "that phones distract us from the mindful contemplation of our lives" and "provide an easy way to disengage from our inner states," perhaps even exacerbating "an unhealthy tendency to avoid negative feelings." But guess what? Books, music, and TV, and any other form of entertainment you can think of—from public radio to crossword puzzles—can all accomplish that same purpose.
"Are these old-fashioned modes of entertainment and distraction any less pernicious than the ones we have today?" Consider this irony: Louis CK was, he admits in his rant, listening to a Bruce Springsteen song when he fought the urge to text all his friends and instead just sat there and let himself be sad. But Springsteen himself could be considered just as big a distraction as the comedian's phone, Engber writes: "What if CK had been sitting there in blessed silence, staring out across the open road and contemplating his own mortality? Why did he have to clog the gaping quiet with classic rock?" We tend to believe "antique distractions," like books and music, "enrich us," while modern ones hurt us. But the more complicated truth is that some books and music are just as much "filler"—while some Facebook posts are brilliant and enriching. Click for Engber's full column.