I can’t help but notice how much of a beautiful day it is. Summertime is beckoning me from my windows. The wave of humidity has finally subsided, the breeze is calm and soothing, and the sky is a grand balance of clouds and blueness that complement and regulate the sun to a satisfying combination of brilliance and shade. The colors and light bouncing off of a collective structure of natural and man-made beauty produces a lush sensation of opportunity and excitement. It is a great day to do a number of things, or nothing. As vast as the possibilities of enjoying the outside world are, I’m not stepping foot outside today, I’m tired of people. I’ll stick to social media and dip in as much or as little as I fancy, without the commitment of having to wait long enough to leave or say goodbye.
Although, as much freedom as my digital self is given, I can’t help but feel trapped by something. It’s out there and it’s in here. In my mind, I am unfortunate enough to believe that the day will only reach a certain level of its full reality before it is overcome by the silent, yet buzzing wave of the Internet, or the Digital Age that we are functioning in right this minute. In order to reach or be reached these days, it seems like we must succumb to collective hours of being in a trance-like state. Even if for the few seconds it takes to pick up a phone and dial a family member or friend, we wait for the ring or instant voicemail, we are enslaved by the means in which we engage. Those seconds add up, I’ve checked my call log enough to know.
As I write this, I am still able to notice myself and my mannerisms: the terrible posture I have fallen into; the sequences of gazing at images, graphics, words and visual representations; the struggle of feeling in control and feeling helpless to a machine, or massive energy force; and the space of transitioning back to my default consciousness after I look away or put the device down. I know you can relate to some extent because you are reading this. We all seem to have in common the fact that we cannot escape the Internet and social media. To do so would be to live off of the grid, and society has for some reason made that illegal at this point–also questionable, but I can’t bark up two trees at once.
Those who do it–live off of the grid, that is–do not care about what I am writing about, for they have chosen a different reality to exist in. Honestly, I wish I could join them, but I don’t know where to start. It’s true, we are living in the age of information and accessibility. Yet, I can’t help but sometimes feel that I am becoming dumber over time instead of more knowledgeable. It’s as if the amount of resources being invented and produced in this Digital Age is pulling me further from the reality that I feel destined to. I feel like I’m losing a game of which I don’t understand the rules, as if I’m being stripped of my powers. In order to be a part of “what’s going on the world” I have to surrender myself to a cyber whirlpool of information and ignorance.
I realize that everyone does not feel this way, and that the ones who “make a living” off of the things I just described have the luxury of holding the reigns of the tools and resources out there that are for exploring, innovating, and interacting with (in other words, controlling a lot of people and what they do). However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we must give up a very significant part of ourselves in order to be relevant in the age of computers. There is so much out there, so many different uses of apps and media, serving more and more purposes (or purposeless, at times) that I feel overwhelmed and even paralyzed by it. I’m still trying to figure out why “easier” ways to do the same thing need to be thought up. Like, isn’t that just doing something different?
The vastness of empty interaction and endless streams of content, causes, events, entertainment, music, memes, personal rants, shallow opinions, and most of the time just plain ignorance that has been magnified and displayed on such a global level makes me wonder how we have gone on this way for so long while still defining ourselves as an intelligent species. Some would even argue that this mess that we’ve made is progression. I would say the progression needs an extreme makeover. Do you feel as confused as I do?
I love how you meander on the topic presented! Taking me on a poetic journey on a path that many of us are stuck on. Yes, I’m also confused — not so much by the fact of others constantly occupying themselves during in-person social settings with smart phones, apps, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — but more so by the realization that I am guilty as well, while feeling extremely annoyed when others do it to me. A wonderful example of the pot calling the kettle black.
I recall one particular incident when I was out for dinner with three friends. As usual, upon taking our seats, the first thing I did was check whether I had a new Instagram message, since I’d gotten off the subway 2 minutes earlier. After checking for other updates to make sure I was still in the know of the latest developments regarding the new puppy my friends got, I put my phone away and looked up and almost flipped! All three of my friends were on their phones doing I don’t know what, but it looked just as important as what I was doing seconds before.
“Hey mobile unit! We’re in a restaurant here and we should be able to have in-person conversations using our actual vocal chords while looking each other in the eyes!” Of course that statement was somewhat misplaced and I was read into a box. It was an odd sight though, and I’d seen it before at neighboring tables. The entire party would be sitting around a table being completely silent and consumed by their smart phones. What’s the point of going out, if all you do is keep up the illusion of meaningful interactions with online “friends” — most of whom you probably would not even consider friends in real life?!
In my opinion there are a couple of reasons for this:
Missing out: Nowadays, if you have not seen the latest video ridiculing Donald Trump or meme commenting on the latest episode of “America’s Got Talent,” you don’t count. You need to stay abreast of all these meaningless events in order to become meaningful.
Social anxiety: It can be scary to interact with others when the other is actually in your physical presence. I see it all the time at conferences and meetings. The moment there is a break, the first thing everyone does is grab their phone and answer important emails. This way you don’t have to talk to your neighbor, who you remember from a previous conference, but can’t recall his or her name.
Narcissism: Some people just love the attention and will do anything to increase their followers, like post insignificant stuff all day long. “The water tap in the kitchen is dripping! I’m lost and don’t know what to do! Please help me out of here!” or “Here’s a picture of my cat on the couch.” and “Here’s a picture off my cat on the floor.” and “Here’s a picture of my cat outside.” Lord, stop posting pictures of your cat!
Loneliness: Some people are truly lonely. It happens more often than you think, especially in big cities like New York. Interacting with others through social media creates the illusion that you have a lot of friends. But it’s not real. Most people on Facebook do not really care about your posts, and if they do, you can probably compare it to the 15-minutes-of-fame phenomenon. Whatever it is, it is forgotten instantly because the next post requires newly found focus.
Anyway, we can do one of two things: either collectively decide that we need to adhere to some sort of social etiquette (one that relies on physical presence), which isn’t impossible — we also all learned how to eat with knife and fork (or at least with a fork); or we just have to accept it as part of the new social norm. Though we may run the risk of dumbing ourselves down and deteriorating in our ability to have meaningful interactions with others, we’ll get past that and will find new ways to lead rich and beautiful lives.
Krystal & Yako