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Welcome back No Chill Zone, a weekly column where I rant and rave about how some aspects of today’s society are sucking the ever-loving chill out of us. For those of you who maybe don’t know, being described as having “no chill” essentially means that one has lost any semblance of common, rational sense, opting instead to take things to wildly unnecessary extremes, or, in layman’s terms, “doing the most.”

Each week, I’ll be picking a topic that I believe perfectly encapsulates what it means to have absolutely zero chill, and put it on blast. There will be judgment, there will be harsh words and there will probably be tears. This week’s topic is:

Interacting in Our Digital Age

Technology is a grand thing. Today, it’s easier more than ever to communicate with and keep in touch with friends, family and acquaintances through the marvel of modern telecommunication technology and the Internet. Our devices and the ever prevalent wave of WiFi that permeates throughout the modern world allow us to connect with people digitally and online in ways that are unprecedented. In essence, one no longer has to leave the comfort of their own home to make friends. A simple heart given to your brunch photo on Instagram from an admirer half way around the world and boom – new bestie!

But what happens when you take away the devices, the WiFi and all of that high-faulting tech and put a bunch of strangers in a room together, or push yourself out into the world without the safety net and crutch of your smartphone? Well, a lot of social awkwardness it turns out, and a fairly noticeable absence of chill as well.

Recently, I was invited to attend an exclusive listening party for Adele’s album 25 before it was released. In order to ensure no one recorded the tracks and uploaded them on the Internet before they were available for purchase, I was told that all phones would have to be checked at the door. First thought: OMG am I going to meet Adele? (The answer, unfortunately, was no). Second thought: OMG I get to listen to the biggest album of the year before anybody else. Third thought: OMG I’m going to be in a room full of strangers I don’t know without my phone; this will be an interesting social exercise to behold.

Turns out, after I got some paper work signed, notarized and confirmed, I was allowed to bring a plus one. A part of me was both relieved and a little disappointed. Obviously, I was excited that I could bring a friend along and make this into a fun night out, but another part of me wondered what could’ve been. Being stripped of my phone would’ve forced me to use my people skills to interact with the other invitees. Who knows, I could’ve made a new best friend on my own merits, and in person. Or it could’ve been an awkward mess and I would’ve crashed and burned, and then sobbed in a corner by myself listening to Adele’s new power ballads of emotional destruction.

The event itself was tiny – as a nod to the album, only 25 people were invited. Yet throughout the night, most people stuck with the person they came with. What struck me was that as we all waited outside to enter a rented out bar hosting the listening party, no one seemed very willing to interact or discuss this exclusive and downright cool event we all were lucky enough to get invited to. Has technology really diminished conversational skills that much, and turned us all into weird hermits who don’t want to stretch outside of our squads so to speak? It sort of seems that way.

As the night went on, and the open bar got people loosened up, people seemed more willing to reach out and talk to others in attendance. I spoke with several people there throughout the night, and even went out to another bar with a lovely Irish girl there after the event ended. No lie though, for a while there, it was pretty bleak in this tiny bar with everyone secluded and confined to their comfortable pairs.

But guess what? I was without my phone for 2 hours, and I actually had conversations with multiple strangers without it being awkward or forced. We are a species that is genuinely built to communicate and connect with each other, though in today’s age, it seems nearly impossible to do so anymore without a device facilitating that communication. You have more people and social skills than you think! Don’t be that sad person who literally breaks down when divorced from their phone for more than five minutes. It’s the epitome of having no chill. And don’t sweat being surrounded by people you don’t know. Anxiety and fear of rejection have turned us all into bumbling messes of no chill, but in reality, most people are always down to meet and make a new friend.

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