Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: iLonely

iPod. iPad. iPhone. Has the world of techno-connectivity that seems to be symbolized by the humble lower-case "i" done more than just create a media iCon? For sure Apple / Mac is not responsible for the Age of Information's addiction to tech savvy connesseurism of tools and gadgets that are so "easy to use" that I'm sure more than one toddler has phoned Japan while their parent has unloaded groceries at the checkout. Absolutely our dependence on Facebook is not solely because it is the easiest way to re-connect with those we love when Friday night shenanigans result in another "I lost my phone- everyone send me your #!!" scenario. Our adoration for apps is not entirely the fault of the Apple store whose fabulously sleek interface has revolutionized the way our culture views media marketing.

I am the Apple girl in my family. Having dated a statistically significant number of geeks over two decades has taught me that Macs are superior. Period. Go ahead... argue. Won't make a difference, nobody else has swayed me yet. But strangely, while my uber plugged in sister still totes a PC in her stylin' laptop case, it is she that is the Apple poster child. Her ears have sported the buds of every Pod the wee letter "i" has been a part of. She was the first person to show me the bazillion reasons there were for me* to jump on the Smartphone bandwagon.

*Regular readers will know that I am still sans mobile and am possibly the only person in North America who is still land line dependent. In fact, I am waiting to chance upon a vintage rotary in a great colour, which should suitably confuse and frustrate my family. 

Li'l Sis is the demographic that Apple has coveted since it made the horrific and near fatal error of ignoring the concept of home computing  way back in the day. They played catch up for years before one of their more briliant marketing teamsters came up wtih the concept that would change the name of the game forever. Sexy. iPods are not small and convenient listening devices, they are crazy unique dance moves to indie tunes you have never heard before but know you should love. iPhones are not a way to enjoy the wonders of mobile communication, they are a way to let the world know who you are via rainbow hued cases, jeweled bling and wicked cool ringtones. And PC vs. Mac started it all by turning geekdom covetable with a campaign that imprinted on us the idea of computer-tech-network-engineer-graphic-artist-webmaster-hacker types being infinitely cool and mightier than thou.

These days, the more wired you are, the higher up the ladder you seem because chances are, you are one of the first to see it tweeted that Beyonce is preggers and that Miss Kardashian is over a foot shorter than her basketball playing hubby. And we all know that knowledge is power! Yes, in a rush to keep up with the "Joneses" of the digital age, we have immersed ourselves in a gloried display of how important "i" can be. It is a time to celebrate your unique attitude, style and sparkly contribution to society and show the world via cute txt lingo how fabulous you truly are.

But what about the "we"?

No, not the Wii (Nintendo's answer to unhealthy closeted gamers is to create quality family time playing "team sports" in front of the telly, of course) ... I am talking about real, actual, person to person communication using only the tools we used for all the centuries before this one. Our ears and our mouths. Julian Treasure has taken it upon himself to study the dying art of listening. He points out that the louder our world gets, the more distracted we are and the more removed from healthy society we become. I recently spoke to an old friend from high school that said since returning from life in Thailand, he has noticed a vast disconnection in North American society. That striking up a conversation with somebody is near impossible what with having to interrupt their texting or iPod listening.

People these days are busy even in their downtime, and our brains are becoming so overloaded with non-information that we simply have very little room left for the things that are... or should be... important. Politics, education, daily interaction... family... all are taking a backseat to a glossy new interface that we are mistaking for life. I notice this every day walking down the street with my four year old. I live in a small town (pop. 10 000) and when my now eight year old was wee, he spent most of his time out of the house chatting up anyone who would give him the time of day. Which was on average, pretty much everyone. The bus, the grocery store, the park... nobody was exempt from his tales of what was his favourite new toy or book. That was four years ago, and today, when my second tries in vain to converse with the people we run into on our walk downtown, he is mostly blocked by earbuds or a qwerty pad... and the most he receives is a polite but uninterested nod. Most of the time he is ignored completely. Now I am of course biased because I think everyone should drop what they are doing and indulge my son in conversation, but I was raised to not interrupt people and to give them their space and that is now the lesson learned in repetition. It isn't hard to see the difference though. Even without a degree in Humanitarian Studies, or whatever area it is that studies the effects of human interaction on the psyche, I can tell you how unhealthy this all is. Perhaps if I didn't take personal offense via my child, I wouldn't notice. But then, when we see more and more relationships being "built" on bank accounts and boob jobs, perhaps the art of social interaction is something that should be paid more attention to.

Maybe. Just a thought.

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