Have you been to a live concert lately? Or a fireworks display? Did you see the people around you? How many of them had one arm outstretched, their hand held aloft clutching their phone and aiming it at the stage or the sky, watching events unfold on their device’s 2x4inch screen instead of observing and experiencing full size reality without a bit of intermediary tech? I’m guessing a lot of them.
This is how things go now; all experience is mediated and filtered through tech – in most cases, through our smartphones. Look at memory, the way we remember things. In the past, memory would be subtly altered, if altered at all, by time and by the subjectivity of any given moment – maybe you’re feeling good while you reminisce or look at an old photo, maybe you’re feeling bad – but now our memories are altered in an instant, an Instagram to be more precise; colors and filters and effects are added to the images we capture, distorting the truth behind them, manipulating the sense of atmosphere pervading them. The ability to airbrush or Photoshop reality is now handheld.
It is weird, though, especially when you think about the phone-gazers at concerts or fireworks displays, this need to view everything through the digital medium… even though you’re actually there. Then we have this desire to photograph everything, post it immediately on Facebook; all being well with the world, this should be followed by the satisfying sense of validation that comes from it being liked… was there ever a sadder metaphor for the loneliness of modern human existence?
People offer up running commentaries on their lives and thoughts, tweeting every two minutes, providing real time narration to the boring minutiae of their lives: pulling my pants down… having a dump… water has splashed my arse cheeks… paper has ripped… got some poop on my fingers… tasted good. I understand, Tweeters. Technology is letting you proclaim your existence… or screaming into the void, as I like to call it.
We’ve become distracted by our phones and the prospect of constant connectivity. But it is virtual connectivity at the expense of actual connectivity. How often do you want to smack a companion around the skull to remind them that you’re actually standing there in front of them, talking to them, while they text or tweet or read a text or read a tweet or crush some fucking candy in a dry-eyed, unblinking trance?
Smartphone tech, to some degree, has made us slaves of instantaneity. Remember answering machines? Anybody? They’re not just there for when you’re out; they’re also for allowing the phone to ring while you have a conversation with someone else, so that you can actually have that conversation and check out the message later. Leave the phone alone, goddam it! Ooh? What? Has someone fired another WhatsApp thumbs up or smiley face at you, one that you just can’t miss? LEAVE IT! I’M TALKING TO YOU! NOW! IN THIS MOMENT! CHRIST, I AM GOING TO… hang on a sec… phone call. See? Annoying, right?
I don’t even know why I’m bothering to write this. I’m going to reconfigure the whole thing into 140 characters instead and tweet the fucker. Angry Face!