Thursday, September 5, 2013

TV in the kitchen.

I worry about the effects of forever-connectivity on our social culture.

Also, the last few days I've been thinking about how massive smartphones are getting. Like physically massive. They're getting so ridiculously huge that they might as well be called tablets. And what's the difference between a phone and a tablet these days if the size doesn't distinguish? Why do I have a laptop and a tablet and an ereader and an iPod and a phone? If phones keep getting bigger will we eventually reach a point where we just say "fuck it" and just carry our laptops with us everywhere? I mean, we might as well.

I listened to a podcast today that was speaking to this issue and the hosts brought up examples...like, we make reservations for dinner from an app on our phone and then check in on foursquare when we get to the restaurant and then we upload pictures of our food to Instagram when it gets to the table and on and on. Frequently, when out at dinner or a bar or a show all I can see are blue-light tinged faces sucked into their "dream machines" as my mom calls all handheld devices since my GameBoy in the '90s. The boys on the podcast mentioned an article comparing our relatively new smartphone era (the iPhone has only been out 6 years, though it feels longer) to the "TV in the Kitchen" phase when TVs had become such a member of American families that we started letting them interrupt our dinner. But this phase arguably (though I still know people with televisions in their kitchen) didn't last long. One can hope that smartphones will fade into our pockets in a few more years and they won't be the downfall of human interaction like a lot of us are foretelling.

I am so torn on this issue. On the one hand, I'm hopelessly in love with aluminum electronic devices that keep me plugged into the Matrix. But I worry about how fragmented my time has become by checking my phone every five minutes. I used to be very strict about keeping my phone out-of-sight out-of mind in social situations. I still hardly ever take pictures in the presence of others and I never answer my phone when I'm with friends, but so many of my friends just have their phone's screen up-and-at-the-ready on the table and I've started doing it too. But I want to be present. I still will not take my phone out at concerts because the pictures/videos you take will be crappy and distract from your experience in the moment. The lens through which we view the world organically (our eyeballs/brains/etc) is still farrrr superior to the 8MP lens on our phone camera. The sensory world is something I feel I am missing more and more. While I relish the opportunity to plug in and tune out the world sometimes, I'm overusing this tool. For fuck's sake, as I'm writing this blog I'm getting texts that alert me on my phone, my tablet, and my computer simultaneously in case I miss a single emoticon.

Don't even get me started on social media. There's TOO much! Google +, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest...ahhhh. They all have their advantages, of course. I go to Facebook to actually get ahold of people I know in my life. I go to Instagram to upload pictures of my animals. I go to tumblr to get validation for being a weirdo. I avoid Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ most of the time....but they're tools too. I'll use them to promote this blog. It's maddening. It would be nice if we were all connected to one conglomerate social media that was infinitely customizable...oh, wait, that's just sitting in front of a person and fucking talking to them. What?

As introverted as I am, I still prefer face-to-face when it comes to my real connections, my top ten friends and family.

All this blathering is to say that I'd like to make some parameters for myself...boundaries between me and my technology. My first move was to delete all but Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram from my social media folder in my phone. Next, I think it would behoove me to unfollow a chunk of people on my Instagram and Tumblr to remove the temptation to get sucked into those worlds. I tend to scroll through those sites until I'm updated on EVERYTHING, which has got to be the mark of insanity. I get up every morning two hours before work in order to play with my tablet while drinking my coffee. True, I got up that early before the smartphone era, but then I was READING and/or WRITING.

And how much do you hate Facebook these days? It's gotten to the point that people seem to think just because you're friends on Facebook that you have seen and memorized all the details of their lives and the lives of our mutual friends. It often seems that people are continuing a conversation with me in person that started with a pictures of someone's granddaughter online assuming I have seen every single update on Facebook. Or that I want to see every single update on Facebook. And how weird is it when someone from high school you haven't seen SINCE high school runs into you at Target and already knows everything that's going on with you because you posted it on Facebook and forgot to make your post "friends only"? Social media is this weird privacy invasion we all signed up for!

Just in the time it's taken me to write this blog I've gotten an email and a dozen or so text messages. Maybe I should turn the alerts off on my phone too. This world of immediacy is driving me bonkers. I feel like I don't hone in on a task anymore...the distractions are constant. I feel like I'm about to have some sort of meltdown and go back to my pink Razr, sell my tablet, and just log onto the internet for an hour at the end of the day like I did back in high school. I had a social life back then. And I got lots of exercise too. Damn screens are ruining my life!! I don't really mean that. I love you, screens. Don't ever leave me.

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