I was in Las Vegas for the past week, my third stay over the past four years. One of the most striking things about the place is how few people have their phones out, let alone laptops (of which I don't think I saw one the whole time in a public place).
Sure, there were a handful of hardcore social retards (all female Millennials) who were walking around the Strip with their heads snapped downward, but they were so few that they really stood out to me.
You might say, "Well duh, everyone is on vacation there, and who goes on vacation to re-enact the daily grind?" But you could find plenty of bored nuclear families walking around the Smithsonian / Mall area of DC and see both children and parents with phones in their hands. Or tourists in New York waiting for or riding the subway, not to mention walking around the streets pretending to fit in by being glued to their screen in public. I mean, like, that's how important people behave...
In fact, there was one situation where I did see a bunch of people in the tell-tale posture. It was outside Radio City Pizza, a trendoid restaurant with outdoor seating during the summer, at one end of Fremont Street in downtown (not the Strip), where the "old Vegas" used to be -- which has recently become the hipster Vegas, in our neo-mid-century craze. It definitely has a "Keep Vegas Weird" undercurrent.
Couples and friends were sharing small intimate tables outside on a Friday night, with pedestrians streaming by -- the perfect opportunity for socializing and people-watching, right? Instead, in every one of the four or five groups seated next to the sidewalk, at least one of the pair was staring down at a glowing screen.
"Put your phones away -- it's Vegas," I said in a raised voice while walking by, using a stern and slightly disgusted tone. I think it's telling that the only noticeable spot for cyber-cocooning was peopled by neo-Beatniks in a neo-mid-century destination.
Other than that, though, and especially on the Strip, the place is remarkably devoid of devices. There's simply too much spectacle to feel bored and in need of digital brainwave support. That must also draw a different audience than New York or DC -- people who are at least adventurous enough to turn off their screens, melt into a crowd, and enjoy each other's company. That's just living a bit too dangerously for most people these days, even aside from the potential of gambling their money away.
If you want to play it safe, to heighten your self-consciousness, and to strike the loudest poses, you go on one of those RPG vacations where you "live like a New Yorker" for a week. Or a Londoner, a Roman, an et cetera. Rent an authentic apartment, buy authentic food at an authentic neighborhood grocer's, and fill your day with other authentic quotidian activities. Why, learn how to operate a bidet, and you too can take a dump comme un vrai parisien.
In our age of oppressive pretentiousness, it's a godsend to still have an oasis like Las Vegas left for vacationers who want to forget themselves, join a spirited crowd, and get lost in the moment.