14 June 2014

Look Up

Recently a friend of mine and I who met through Aol Instant Messaging 13 years ago were chatting about the way kids today spend all of their time chattering away on phones, and I wondered if it was really so different from the way she and I, and other teenagers of that generation, would stay up all night talking on instant messagers and sending one another funny pictures or .wav files.  There are big differences, of course; we couldn't talk on MSN or Yahoo while we were at a dinner table with family, or while walking down the street If it were possible we certainly would have, I suppose.   In another way that direct connection with the phone is far more intense than the computer messaging programs; phones have become the default way people experience the world.  We navigate cities by phone, get restaurant reviews by phone, call cabs and reserve rooms by phone, take pictures of everything that happens by phone,  and those square codes that can be read by phones for more information are popping up all over the place.  They've become appendages. She responded by sharing this breathtaking video with me, a spoken-verse reading about the way technology impacts the way we experience the world and one another.  I've included the transcription below, but the music and visuals really drive the performance home.

'I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely. 
I speak to all of them everyday, yet none of them really know me.
The problem I have sits in the spaces between, 
looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.

I took a step back, and opened my eyes, 
I looked around, and then realised 
that this media we call social, is anything but 
when we open our computers, and it’s our doors we shut.

All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion, 
of community, companionship, a sense of inclusion 
yet when you step away from this device of delusion, 
you awaken to see, a world of confusion. 
A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered, 
where our information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard. 
A world of self-interest, self-image, self-promotion, 
where we share all our best bits, but leave out the emotion.

We are at our most happy with an experience we share, 
but is it the same if no one is there. 
Be there for you friends, and they’ll be there too, 
but no one will be, if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, we crave adulation, 
we pretend we don’t notice the social isolation. 
We put our words into order, until our lives are glistening, 
we don’t even know if anyone is listening.

Being alone isn’t the problem, let me just emphasize, 
that if you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise, 
you are being productive, and present, not reserved or recluse, 
you’re being awake and attentive, and putting your time to good use.

So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone, 
put your hands behind your head, and step away from the phone. 
You don’t need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list, 
just talk to one another, and learn to co-exist.

I can’t stand to hear the silence, of a busy commuter train, 
when no one wants to talk through the fear of looking insane. 
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies 
to engage with one another, and look into someone’s eyes.

We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born, 
watch us living like robots, and think it’s the norm. 
It’s not very likely you will make world’s greatest dad, 
if you cant entertain a child without a using an iPad.

When I was a child, I would never be home, 
I’d be out with my friends, on our bikes we would roam. 
We’d ware holes in our trainers, and graze up our knees; 
we’d build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees.

Now the parks are so quiet, it gives me a chill 
to see no children outside and the swings hanging still. 
There’s no skipping or hopscotch, no church and no steeple, 
we’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down that display, 
take in your surroundings, and make the most of today. 
Just one real connection is all it can take, 
to show you the difference that being there can make. 
Be there in the moment, when she gives you the look, 
that you remember forever, as when love overtook. 
The time you first hold her hand, or first kiss her lips, 
the time you first disagree, but still love her to bits.

The time you don’t need to tell hundreds, about what you’ve just done, 
because you want to share the moment, with just this one. 
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring, 
for the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing. 
The time you want to start a family, and the moment when, 
you first hold your baby girl, and get to fall in love again. 
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest, 
and the time you wipe away the tears, as your baby flees the nest.
The time your little girl returns, with a boy for you to hold, 
and the day he calls you granddad, and makes you feel real old 
The time you take in all you’ve made, just by giving life attention, 
and how your glad you didn’t waste it, by looking down at some invention. 

The time you hold your wife’s hand, and sit down beside her bed 
you tell her that you love her, and lay a kiss upon her head. 
She then whispers to you quietly, as her heart gives a final beat, 
that she’s lucky she got stopped, by that lost boy in the street. 
But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this, 
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.
So look up from your phone, shut down those displays, 
we have a finite existence, a set number of days. 
Why waste all our time getting caught in the net, 
as when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret.

I am guilty too, of being part of this machine, 
this digital world, where we are heard but not seen. 
Where we type and don’t talk, where we read as we chat, 
where we spend hours together, without making eye contact.

Don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype, 
give people your love, don’t give them your like. 
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined 
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind. 
Look up from your phone, shut down that display, 
stop watching this video, live life the real way. 


CyberKitten said...

I know SO many people welded to their phones..... [shakes head]

Joshua Orr said...

This was a real swell read. I really appreciate it.

Stephen said...

Oh, my pleasure!