The internet is a marvelous thing, isn’t it? Shopping – spying – ordering – liking – sending – receiving – paying – balancing – storing – messaging – retweeting – tracking – blocking – grinding – hailing…
Do you remember Myspace? Coming home from school, sitting down at your parents $4,000 desktop PC (which had a single CD-ROM drive that couldn’t even burn discs), dialing up at 52K, opening Internet Explorer, logging into Myspace with your lowercase, digit-less password, and seeing this:
Holy fucking shit. “Sorry, mom! I can’t do my homework because my top 8 (top 16, if you were the fucking pwnzrz at learning HTML on your own) needs me!!” It was the ultimate feeling of happiness: someone cares about me. The smiley emoji comments on my first batch of selfies; the message from some scene bitch on the opposite end of the United States asking how the Set Your Goals show was; the hideous acronyms littered amongst everything (I used “LYLAS” way too often for someone trying to stay in the closet). All of these outlets of outreach were proactive ways of telling someone you were thinking of them.
In 2014, however, it isn’t about anyone else. It’s about yourself.
Your selfie. Your venti no-whip soy mocha. Your new car. Your selfie again, (christ…ten times this week?) The news articles you think are relevant. Your feelings. Your emotions. Your gratification.
Now that Myspace is dead (it is…isn’t it?), Facebook and Instagram reign as the most dynamic and robust “social networking” tools in existence. Shit, people that attended my middle school, who were in no way close to me or my group of friends, somehow pop up in my news feed. Oh, you had another baby at age 23? Cute. JK. SICK. People I work with, old boyfriends, family members, strangers, best friends — they are all a click away. Just a click.
Knowing this, why would I go out of my way to write and send them a letter in the mail? Why would I hop on a bus in the cold to bring someone flowers and an Emergen-C when they are sick, when I can send them an e-gift card for them to use at their “convenience”? Why would I ‘like’ their photo when they’re not even following me on Instagram? Why would I open and read their text message when I can open the notification center, read it there, and leave it “un-read” in order to respond at my convenience (time to fess up, y’all). Why in the fuck, man?
These technologies — these creations of innovative, life-saving software and hardware, are making us anxious, socially inept, and selfishly reactive to other people. I’m guilty, I’ll admit, and have been for quite some time. I have always felt like the shoulder on which to cry, the ear to listen, and the mouth to say, “everything will be fine.” Yet, when it’s your turn to be these things, you pull out your iPhone and tickity-tick away, your eyelids being the only physical piece of you that notices my pain. I think we’re all victims of it — we’re also all guilty.
I can also admit, I am much more eloquent in writing. If I were sitting with someone in a restaurant and this topic arose, it probably would not come out of my mouth as elegantly as you see before you. However, a picture of me or my surroundings with a catchy tagline, or a text message I send you that makes you fall in love with me — that is not me. That is not my in-the-moment attention or advice. That is not my love. That is not my caring nature. That is not the dedication I have to anyone who considers me a friend.
My mother, who has been misunderstood and chastised by society for years due to her religious beliefs, drove miles out of her way on Valentine’s Day to take flowers to an almost-blind, 80 year old acquaintance she met at the gym. Yet, my friend calls me and I ignore it because I am not quite finished scrolling through the photos I missed on Instagram while I was asleep. As your friend sits across from you, begging for your attention and love in the real world, you are becoming an isolationist, double-tapping your way into a four-inch island which is your perception of human interaction.
I think technology is beautiful. I love my iPhone and MacBook — these beautifully designed and easy to use pieces of hardware that inspire and create solutions for healthcare, communication, and learning. But, I can (and will more often) put these devices away to listen to my close-friend’s song recommendation or a compelling, personal story. I fear twenty years from now, when babies are born with a phone in their hand. How will they communicate face to face? How will they, without Adderall, Xanax, and other mind and body-altering drugs, summon the courage to ask that beautiful girl on a date? The sweat, the nervousness, the euphoric feeling of anticipation — will it all be missed because their phone vibrated in their pocket?
I hope not. Because our world will be Instagauched and Instafucked.
I encourage you to now take out a piece of paper, write to someone dear, and drop it in the mail. Or, call an old friend to tell them you love and miss them (hopefully they answer, fuckers). After I publish this post, I am going to surprise my sister, with whom I do not spend nearly enough time.