I should be intelligent enough to accept that this is a subject for debate and that there is no yes or no, right or wrong. On the other hand, on my own blog I will say what I like. So the answer is, surely, YES. Let the youngsters berate me and poke fun and call me a dinosaur.
I actually like gadgets. When the first iMacs came out in the late ’90s I just had to have one. I’ve used Macs ever since, because they suit my personality. If I were one of those people for whom life as a concept wouldn’t exist if I were not constantly listening to music ALL THE TIME, then I’m sure I’d have scooped up the first iPods, too. I enjoyed using the iPad when it came out. I don’t have an iPhone. I have a schmucky, temperamental smart phone from HTC but I only use it as a phone. I have a small day job business which operates online. I use the internet.
But not all the time, everywhere.
The reason this piece from the BBC caught my attention today is two-fold.
One, I understand from my Twitter feed (another technological necessity that I have still not worked out how to use properly) that Apple have released, or are releasing, a watch. Or, in other words, A Life On A Wrist. Plenty of chatter about the battery life or whether this will work on it, or that. All I can see is more staring down at something.
Secondly, the other day I had just started my run and was going along the harbour. Often, there are people walking, for exercise. I noticed a couple striding along, side by side. They were as close together as you can be without touching. They were both on the phone. Blah-di-blah-di-blah. So, okay, let’s assume that someone called them with something important. Both of them. At the same time. About twenty minutes later, on my way back, I crossed them again. Both still on the phone.
What struck me was this. They were clearly together. So they go walking together. Why? Maybe one needs the company? Maybe one goes: “let’s go walking in the morning because if I know you’re coming then I won’t chicken out?” If you’re going to be on the phone the entire time, and the person you’re with is on the phone the entire time, there is something wrong. The only acceptable scenario for me is that they were on the phone to each other. At least that would be a different sort of madness.
When I run along the sea front, with the smell of the sea, the sun shimmering off the ocean, the palm trees moving in the wind, birds swooping, the volcanic mountains sweeping up high, the morning light making shadows…I think of friends of the past, and how they would probably smile and just sit there with a coffee (or a fag, yes) and take it all in. And on these special mornings, where everything comes together so beautifully in nature, what do I run past? Young people, sitting down, metres away from the beach and view, hunched over their phones. Three and four side by side, all hunched over their own phones.
Is boredom now banned? Will no one ever just sit waiting for the bus and stare across the road? Will no one pick at the rip in their jeans while they’re at the Doctor’s surgery, maybe using the time to think about what to make for dinner? Does no one want to enjoy something they’re actually doing at the moment, without trying to capture it and share with their internet alter-life?
I do worry about it. It was only a little over a decade ago – when all mobile phones did was text – that I began to get irritated. You sit in a cafe with someone, and they’re texting someone else. A conversation. I once drove many miles to collect a dancer to bring back down for our show. I had a Lotus Elise, so she said yes. But we had a coffee in the city first and barely spoke three phrases (oh, and we weren’t strangers, this was the fifth gig). Maybe it was because she thought she was too pretty to be seen in public with me but it was all text, text, text. She might have well worn a T Shirt with “It’s Okay I’d Rather Be Somewhere Else.” (She later, after sliding into the passenger seat, asked – horrified – “isn’t there a radio?” A radio in an Elise??! Harrumph.)
Look up. Look around. Take it all in. You don’t have to share everything all the time.