Whatever happened to the hang?

Coming to you live the post iPhone social scenes of 2021, at the party, in the kitchens, corners, and porches on a phone. Asking myself, whatever happened to socializing? 

Was it always this awkward? Was all that must hear banter of my parents talking with strangers at parties, was all that as cringe as me around kids my age? 

Growing up, we used to get the suite box tickets to sporting events; for those spoiled enough to have glimpsed behind the curtain of the velvet ropes of a sporting event, something is uniting about a group of people forced into a cramped space for an extended period. Like sitting next to a stranger on a plane, we figure, shit, we got 4 hours here might as well get to know these people. 

I remember these conversations; the game, whether playoff or regular season, was secondary, the conversation my dad was in was so damn fascinating; it felt like I was watching my dad play in this extra gear I’d never seen before. Jeff, my dad, whose regular contribution to the conversation around the house was sighs and keyboard clicks in his office. But at these games, he was the life of the party, rubbing elbows with executives and random colleagues; Jeff’s secret identity was revealed; he was a social butterfly who apparently hates his family. Granted, my sometimes talking machine of a father might be an outlier compared to most, it doesn’t change the fact that as a kid, the small talk of adults sold to us as this rarified air, but now that I’m an adult, it’s less rarified air and more common screen time. 

Another element that plays into this is the transient nature of the experiences mentioned above. Braves game or cross country flights have clearly defined beginnings, middles, and endings. While the pre-games, bar hopping, and late-night WAHO meals do not. In these moments of doing what makes the youth the youth, we don’t know if we’ll see these people we’ve just met ever again or every weekend from here out. 

I’ve seen this uncertainty create tension and freedom in the same breath, but one thing that destroys both feelings of anxiety and freedom is that moment in a conversation when the other person pulls out their phone. Pulling out your phone mid-conversation around is a subtle way of saying, “yeah, I’m bored of you, so I’m going to check the weather and my email. Even though we’re supposed to be having fun, I’d rather read up on Apple’s new terms of service.”

Am I saying that iPhones have ruined all socializing? Sure. I don’t give a fuck if I sound like a boomer here, but iPhones have made socializing secondary. 

We don’t go out to just have fun anymore; we go for the gram pic, we go because of FOMO. 

Social obligation has always been a thing, oh it’s so and so’s birthday, or oh, it’s Halloween; we have to go out only now we have an added layer of pressure; FOMO.

If our parents didn’t go out, they just missed it; they didn’t get it replayed for the next four days over their Facebook, Insta, and snap feeds. 

Our parents fantasized for better or worse all the fun their friends were having without them, while we see all the supposed fun our friends are having without us. 

Which by the way, have you ever seen a girl take a selfie for their story? It’s 3 seconds of group smiling followed by 45 minutes of group silent scrolling.

All of this considered, I ask you, the reader, what happened to the hang? What happened to the rarified air of the adult hang we longed so desperately to be a part of as kids? What the fuck happened to us socially?

When did social anxiety become so widely accepted as normal?

To me, social anxiety is another word for “I feel awkward.” You probably don’t have anxiety; you probably are just underdeveloped socially because instead of facing that uncomfortablity that naturally comes when getting to know someone new, you can escape into your weather app or text your mom. 

(for those out there with actual diagnosed social anxiety, please don’t feel offended by this. I do not have what you have and have a good deal of ignorance in general regarding anxiety disorders; I never want to punch down. But if you just think you have social anxiety, you don’t; you’re just a victim of the times. You’re just underdeveloped socially, unless you got a doctor’s note.)

What happened to the group hang? Iphones and escapism happened. 

As I sit on the frontlines of this world’s new social norms today, I find myself questioning the duality of Steve Jobs’s genius and hating Zuckerfuck even more.

As I write this hanging on my front porch like the boomer I am, I long for the fellow weirdos like me. Weirdos like me that’d rather bomb socially trying to stand out and connect than survive fitting in silently scrolling. 

Until next week, 

Kevin Thomas

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