Musician Gabriel Kahane quit the internet and rediscovered friendship

For many people (i.e. everyone) the idea of ​​ditching your cell phone and going off the internet for a year would be unthinkable. Like certain young adults I know with the last name Horn, just 30 minutes of no connection can be painful.

In response to that incessant online tethering, the musician Gabriel Kahane 12 months out of the virtual world: no email, no texting, no social media, no doom scrolling.

He hasn’t used a cell phone in over three years. And what Kahane discovered during that electronic storage provided a lesson—and an album—that we should all consider.

Kahane’s new record is called beautiful birdIt follows an earlier album inspired by a different kind of odyssey. Rather than feasting on the 2016 presidential election, Kahane left his home, boarded a train and visited more than 30 states. His conversations with fellow Amtrak passengers yielded 2018’s Book of Travelers

Kahane, performing Thursday night at Gold-Diggers in Los Angelessay Book of Travelers inspired beautiful bird

“I was somewhere in the middle of the country in 2016, on one of those trains, and after all those extraordinary conversations with other travelers, and I thought to myself, ‘I really should take more time off the internet,'” she said. Kahane me this week.

“As much as it’s kind of a Hallmark sentiment that we have more in common than we have that divides us — and that there are these forces in the world trying to make us despise each other — I think it’s true. It’s not so much that we are more polarized or that people have become more extreme, but just that social media makes the loudest voices louder.”

Like his train journey, Kahane’s online embargo was about connecting — and reconnecting — with people. Kahane believes that the internet, especially social media, makes it harder for us to love each other, making it harder to build personal connections and coalitions to effect change.

Here is an excerpt from the title song on the album

I think that’s why I left
Free from the role for a year
A picc line drip of glowing hearts
Justice and shopping carts
As if it could ever make us whole
And when my friends call and tell me
It’s worse than before, friendly fire
And hungry for more,
I don’t know what to say.

Kahane said not being on the internet during the pandemic made him think about personal connections, and how important they are to artists.

“What keeps me going? Because writing music is really lonely, it’s often not that much fun. You have to go through draft after draft after draft to get the song right. And yet there’s something that keeps us doing it,” Kahane said. .

“It’s part coercion, makeup, whatever. But I started to realize that for me at least it’s all about these kinds of intimate interactions that are really, really nourishing,” he said. “That could be a conversation at a merch table after a show with one person, or a letter from a fan.”

Kahane is not inclined to explain his lyrics; listeners can read whatever they want in his words.

Every time someone with 1 million followers posts something on Instagram or Twitter, they involve all those people in the project of Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth and the algorithms that divide us.

— Gabriel Kahane

But in several songs, it feels like Kahane both celebrates and laments the concept of alliances — of people not sharing Instagram posts about climate change, for example, but taking personal action to make something happen.

The first track of the album is actually called “We Are the Saints”:

I keep dreaming that I’m climbing a dusty road
To the top of a cold, clear mountain,
Guided by a voice on the radio, it says:
Your feet are the future, so keep walking

Ironically, Kahane’s absence from the internet has made it difficult for social media to take an interest in his new album. But that misses the point of what Kahane is saying.

“It’s really about targeting people with a bigger platform than I have to encourage them to be more aware of the ways they’re using those platforms,” ​​Kahane said.

“Because every time someone with a million followers posts something on Instagram or Twitter, they involve all those people in the project of Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth and the algorithms that divide us,” he said.

I recently took my son to a John Mulaney comedy concert. You couldn’t take your phone inside. So before Mulaney moved on, people weren’t ignoring the person next to them and staring at a screen. They actually spoke to each other.

“Nothing in our society has been more transformative than the telephone itself,” said Kahane. “It’s not the specific software, it’s not the specific platform. The things that draw us to it will change and continue to change, but that will really set the tone for how we relate to each other.”

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