Disclaimer: apart from the first (titled ‘Visiting Grandma’), all photos were taken with my ‘glowing screen’
9 August 2016, Altura, Portugal
Last night, and for the first time in more than 300 days, Cat and I went out for a drink as a couple. It was refreshing to ‘remember how to forget’ the kids for a few hours, and have some uninterrupted grown-up talks.
The bar’s setout is pretty amazing, overhanging the beach, casually decorated and the low lighting invites inconspicuous conversations. The night was atypically warm but the drinks were cold and I learned that great gins are produced in Portugal. We were relaxed, chatty and observant. With such a disposition were we enjoying some quality time in a rare night out.
There was however, a battle being fought. On every other table, warm lights emanating from candles were struggling against cold ones pouring out of portable gadgets – the latter were unequivocally winning as they were deployed in overwhelming strength.
We couldn’t help but notice a couple in their 50s, each entrenched in separate realities with faces glowing from artificial portable light. The only time there was some engagement between them was to snap the occasional selfie (after taking their spectacles). Other than that, the glasses were on and silence held sway.
Soon another couple joined them and the screens were put away, as everyone engaged in that old-fashioned custom of ‘in propria persona’ conversation. It was rather reassuring that they were only waiting for friends to engage in a traditional (is it still?) get together.
All my encouragement went down the drain when I observed all four clutching their phones and sporadically sharing whatever photo or social media post they were tied up in.
It was amusing how one of the ladies had to have her face mere centimeters from the screen and when turning it to share her merriment, the other had to put it at arms-length before giving an acknowledging smile. “My daughter just replied to my post. ‘Where are you guys?’ She asks”.
My “cynical self” imagines those couples a few months from now, reminiscing on that wonderful night where they sat together but didn’t talk to each other… however, the historical record (i.e. smiling selffies) will forever show how much fun they had.
There is no doubt that there is huge value to be found in screens, but they are slaughtering interpersonal interactions, and I am utterly opposed to its constant use. It’s not just the kids that never knew any better; people from a different generation now do it as a social habit as well.
Over a rather short span of years, technology has increasingly set the trend on how relationships are formed and cultivated. I don’t think this is entirely bad because it allows access to likeminded people and to pertinent information in a rather safe and productive manner.
But I dare say that we haven’t been able to cope with its fomenting of a false sense of urgency and unceasing availability. I truly believe it is making making us miss the forest by seductively trapping our attention into the one tree.
I know that interpersonal, non-typed, non-posted kind of communications will eventually become as obsolete as VHS and that the human species is moving away from face-to-face interactions – but I still value those far, far more.
I am painfully aware that I am out of date and quite isolated in this view (doesn’t mean I’m wrong… or right for that matter). But I strongly believe that our demise as an intelligent species will be hastened by this shift.
This perpetually increasing self-centered culture is making us not only dumber but regress as well. It seems that we only know what we can ‘Google’ (a verb) and there’s no need to think because we have several apps that can do that for us.
There is little I can do about it besides keep nagging in this forum here (which I will keep on doing); leaving my screens at home or in my pocket; and refuse to adhere to mainstream conventions.
I invite you to look around the next time you go out and notice the number of tilted necks around you. What is so urgent that he can’t BE with people right in front of him? Is it boredom and the yearning for entertainment that doesn’t let her queue without holding her contraption? The perpetual importance of something else, elsewhere? Is it the urgent impulse to show others how good we have it? How outraged we are at bullshit?
Insofar as getting rid of my biases goes, this is definitely ‘THE’ subject I need to work on… I know I should let go, but I honestly despair at the wilful termination of that which makes us most human… our relationships!
Anyway, I’’ll keep disseminating my outrage.
From myriad observations I made this trip, I’ll leave one more account on how glowing screens reign supreme insofar as severing human interaction goes:
I’m having coffee whilst waiting for my friends S. and T.; a family of 4 walks in, each holding their own device; the kids are concentrated on their ipads; mum and dad are focused on smart phones. Mum orders breakfast at the counter and everyone else momentarily switches their attention to decide where to sit down. Mum sits and all keep living in an individual virtual world without a single worded interaction between them. Breakfast arrives; is briefly acknowledged; and pushed down the throat whilst the gaze of 8 eyes remains unaffected.
My feelings are not important, but this saddens me deeply.
2 March 2018, Noosa
Not that it’s needed, but below is a quote that’ll give leverage to keep business as usual. In my evolved stoicism, I will keep on turning pages instead of swiping them.
“Two thousand years ago, the Stoics complained about people getting lost in books instead of going out and experiencing the real world. Today, we complain that nobody reads books anymore because everyone is lost in the tempting glow of their screens.” The minimalists