Slaves to devices

We are as close to telepathy as we’ve ever come. Thanks to mass communication we can call, message, chat, flick, swipe, poke, follow, talk to any number of people. We can let others know what we are thinking. And find out what other people are thinking. Right now. On the train, at work, in the kitchen, the moments before I fall asleep.

Banksy, Mobile Lovers, 2014

Banksy, Mobile Lovers, 2014

Interactions with friends are nearly always augmented with devices: book a table, google this, find that boutique, ask twitter’s opinion, take a photo. We keep our phones close-to-hand. It’s not uncommon for five of us to be sitting together, all checking our devices together. All sucked away into our online realities.

The on-line reality where everything is blithe and pithy and over-sharing is rife.

Well, superficial over-sharing at any rate. I’m never revealing my unmediated self. I follow the precedents of celebrity over-sharing lead by the Kardashians and Kutchers who’s personal struggles are perfectly performed. Tilted to gain sympathy, spruik a viewpoint, increase their cultural capital. I follow suit. We all do in some way, use our devices to show how perfect we are.

But what is happening beneath the perfect narcissistic farce? Instead of immersing in the myriad of human stories, experiences, collective wisdom, I click refresh. Ping, like Pavlov’s dog the red notification signal sets off chemicals in my system, I want more replies, likes, comments, shares. I loose hours, days, weeks maybe in frenzied clicking sprees, cramming my craving full of notification crack. A device zombie, numbed by cheap validations. The hypnotic screen pacifies my human curiosity, pre-scripting cheap interactions with the world. Even if I break the trance, I’m soon jittering to check again, just quickly. My attention span now comes in ten minute skims, insatiably seeking instant gratification.

I have thought quite seriously about committing Web 2.0 Suicide.

But one of the reasons I haven’t yet redressed my addiction are the very tangible benefits to come from these vast, if superficial, social networks. My device has made my life much more convenient. Richer. Connections have been rekindled, travel companions kept track of, housemates found, restaurants recommended, languages trained, forests navigated, public transport organised, ideas shared, events organised, people brought together in real life.

But at what point do our slaves enslave us? And is it a zero sum game? Is it possible to have both the modern conveniences of connecting at a surface level with many, but also the real satisfaction of connecting with another human being?

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