February 09, 2016

Look UP

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Everyone walking along the busy street is staring face-down into their phones. I watch people head-butt each other as they walk down Oxford Street, following the blue dot on Google Maps to their next meeting like their lives depended on it. We all probably know the way already but iPhones have made us question our own ability to figure stuff out ourselves – that blue dot on Google Maps is so enticing, isn’t it? The Blue Dot of Life. God forbid we’d have to ask someone else in real life for help. How embarrassing that would be.

I heard a news story a year or so ago about someone who had died at the wheel while driving because they wanted to tweet something about their cat. Sometimes I have been compelled to tweet or email something I thought was really funny and it didn’t matter if I were about to cross a busy road. I have nearly been run over multiple times by frantically trying to craft a professional-sounding work email while teetering on the edge of a busy street. Then I catch myself: ‘What the fuck are you doing?! This pointless email to a colleague about something totally unimportant CAN WAIT and is not worth me getting hit by an aggressive London taxi driver at full speed.’

What a sad thing that would be to die over. I would want someone to say ‘she died doing what she loved’ not ‘she died cc’ing her colleagues into a really boring email’.

I admit I don’t look up much myself, and I certainly don’t look out of a bus window much any more. When I occasionally do, because my phone is out of battery, I realise how much I miss out: the people-watching, the good views, the little glimpses of couples hugging, a toddler waddling along or a cute dog, because most of the time I’d rather become engrossed with something funny on YouTube instead. I could easily miss seeing a Baz Luhrmann-style shoot-out crime scene out of the bus window because I’d be on my phone, blindly scrolling. We are becoming increasingly oblivious to everything around us, as we become more deeply invested in the online worlds we’ve created. It seems that the only time we really truly take a break from our Internet worlds is when we are asleep. So we’re either online, or we’re dreaming.

  • We get so absorbed it’s scary. Last week I got home by walking down a big avenue and my dad asked me later: ‘impressive what they’re doing there, right?’. Apparently the road was undergoing some big work, a lane was no longer in use and big machinery was all over the place. Didn’t see or hear a thing!
    As for sleeping, I read somewhere that we should cut down on computer/phone use before going to bed – don’t remember exactly how but it affected our sleep. So yeah, apparently we don’t always completely switch off…

  • I am definitely guilty of not looking up enough (in fact, today I almost walked into a broom propped up against a wall because I was buried in my phone), and I always think like, “Man, if something happened to me just now, it’d be really embarrassing for people to find out I was doing THAT” (i.e. tweeting something stupid or crafting an Instagram caption.) Glad you made that point. And good to have this reminder to put our phones DOWN.

  • I’m definitely guilty of not looking up enough and I grab my phone at about every opportunity, sometimes even in the middle of a conversation. And like you said whenever my phone runs out of battery or internet I do look out the window or at other passengers. And I realise it’s the most lovely thing ever. We should all do it more often.

    Eline | http://www.elinesreturnticket.blogspot.com

  • A young woman died in the Montreal subway last year, falling between two cars because she was looking at her phone. Then her parents tried to blame it on the Subway company. This triggered all sorts of conversations and articles but it did not really change anything. I see people everyday driving with their head down, or texting. Someone they all seem to assume it only happens to others. I am of the generation that saw the rise of cellular phones, and had to adjust to seeing people seemingly crazy on the streets because they were talking loudly on their own, before you realized they were on the phone. Now it is no longer voice, it is texting and gaming and watching movies as we go. Everywhere I go I see zombies: people living as if they were in an isolated bubble. It is scary.

  • I recently took a vacation and stayed off of of social media while I was off from work. It was nice. I might have to do it again, because I feel like once I got back I never got off. It is so addicting.

  • http://teriyeung.com/

    You should go to surf camp in Nicaragua!
    No wifi. Best 2 weeks of my life.

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