I decided that something very personal would be my first blog. I have a dirty secret, and that is that I suffer from cyberanxiety. And when I say suffer, I mean it occupies my mind space in both waking and dreaming life. I just learned recently that the pound sign/number sign is a “hash tag” and I seemingly don’t care. But to others, I am silly in my abhorrence for the latest gimmicks and gadgetries. And this is not simply an example of extreme Luddism either. I see future deformed necks and claw like thumbs constantly fixated at smartphones while I look out at the world around me and wonder when did the digital rapture happen and I was left behind? I pity those that cannot be in the moment or choose not to be in the moment while they similarly smirk to themselves at my ancient flip phone. At what point did technology orchestrate the entire fabric of our modern society? And when was the consensus I did not vote for happen that this was defined as “progress”? The status quo has become completely inundated and infiltrated by digital distractions. And I am radical in the sense that I find it all a joke.
And it is not simply a case of extreme nostalgia either for a simpler time although I do remember a time when my friends came over and we had conversations without the disruptions of someone receiving a text, and we did look at album covers and go roller skating and dancing. We made plans and stuck to them because there was no room for flaking or vagueness as in the now non-committal aspect of text culture. It is the actual redefinition of humanity. And I get extreme anxiety because I want real human connection without the mediation of technology in between.
I celebrated my 40th birthday recently and took myself to see the band that I have treasured in my heart since I can remember the first days of MTV… Duran Duran. I was finally going to see them in their homeland after seeing them throughout the years in States. I cannot tell you how my heart still swells as an avid “Duranie” every time I hear Simon’s nasal whine and see John’s strut and Nick’s neck swivel…but I digress.
I took the “quiet coach” on the train so I could be free from yapping people on their phones and the sight of Smartphones. But what a joke. Two girls sitting across the way from me as if by natural habit as soon as they sat down promptly whipped out their phones and did the usual routine of checking all social media and scrolling scrolling scrolling until they set it down always at a safe distance to snatch back up again in case an alert went off. The conductor told them no mobile devices in the quiet coach and they smiled acknowledgement, and no sooner than when he left like a shaky drug addict, they started scrolling again rather than conversing with each other. I don’t think it was the actual phone that upset me so much but rather their addict like behavior that they could not put the phone down for more than two minutes without itching to scroll to see what they missed.
At the venue, digital advertisements encouraged “lose yourself in the moment, not your phone” and I thought: “firstly, how sad that people have to be reminded of this, and secondly this must mean that I am going to witness a sea of smartphone screens during the concert.” Sure enough the music started and the people next to me were showing each other pictures of their kids, people were taking pictures and uploading them instantly as if to validate their existence, because if someone doesn’t “thumbs up” it, it didn’t really happen. And I was the only one standing and listening and dancing. A man behind me told me to sit down…at a rock concert? Every other time I had seen Duran Duran (ten years ago being the last time) people were screaming, dancing, crying, going off the walls. And now all I see is the inverted necks and clawed thumbs scrolling scrolling. The security guard told me to sit down too and I told him to fuck off or I swear I would jump off the balcony. Me, an anachronism, remembering lighters being flickered when the audience loved a song now washed away in a sea of screens. Simulation beyond what Baudrillard described as hyperreal. I felt a nausea that drove me mad and I left the band that I held more sacred than anything, after only four songs.
Before I left I had a private eulogy for my way of life pre Internet/Smartphone etc etc…. I was Chingachgook in the final scene from Michael Mann’s adaptation of Last of the Mohicans mourning the death of his son and recognizing that he was the last of his kind. I am radical in that I truly believe we have become so digitally distracted that we have lost something very important along the way. My circle of friends becomes smaller than when I was younger because I do not value the importance we put on technology. They are inanimate machines meant to serve us…..not the other way around.