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.
Interactions with friends are nearly always augmented with devices: book a table, google this, find that boutique, ask twitterâ€™s opinion, take a photo. We keep our phonesÂ 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 realityÂ 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 whoâ€™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 Pavlovâ€™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 ofÂ notification crack. AÂ device zombie, numbed by cheapÂ validations. TheÂ hypnotic screenÂ 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 inÂ ten minute skims, insatiablyÂ seekingÂ instant gratification.
I have thought quite seriously about committing Web 2.0 Suicide.
But one of the reasons I havenâ€™t yetÂ 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 toÂ have both the modern conveniences of connecting at a surface level with many, but also the realÂ satisfaction of connecting withÂ another human being?