Why am I writing this? Because the other day I stepped onto a bus and saw twenty people of all ages all staring at their phones… all of them not lifting their head, scrolling and tapping away, looking so distant, so disengaged and lonely. That’s why. Something was just so very wrong here. Like slouched over S-shaped things we roam around, missing the world although we move within it as we’re escaping from the real community into an illusory one – being somewhere else with someone else.
No, no, no, don’t get this the wrong way. Advancements in technology and communications are staggering, shocking and beautiful. Who would have ever though that a fur on their back rockin’, cave dwelling things, will one day carry the accumulated knowledge of the eras tucked away in their pockets and available on demand, that our voices will zoom around the world in seconds bounce of satellites, that we’ll be able to annul the space and time barriers by constant and omnipresent folding of distance by telematics. It took hard work, smart people and a lot of tries and failures, but we got here and are lives are so much enhanced by it. Yet, the most connected era in human history is also the loneliest one. It is not the tool itself that is necessarily damaging. The tool is neutral and just there at your disposal to do with it as you please. You can cook dinner for your family or burn down a forest with fire. The catch is in the usage of a thing given, it has no previous moral sticker on it until it is implemented.
Economy is a monetary construct, but economy is a word describing allocating of resources, investments and returns and money is not the key player in the new digital era – attention is the most valuable resource you have to give, while money is just a collateral of attention economy. They want as much of your time as they can get, they want your eyes, ears and mental space and they know how to create things that prey on your weaknesses. Very useful in real life, some of these mechanisms can be turned against you to serve a marketing purpose at a drop of a hat. And then you find yourself in compulsive loop – Constantly checking your social media, rummaging through emails, playing useless games that not only do you not want to play but feel bad for playing them afterwards, to have this feeling relieved only by playing again and collecting some shiny nonsense as rewards, pings and bleeps rewarding your expectations with shots of dopamine.
Look up from your phone. It’s a tool to stay connected and make some thing in life much easier. It’s not a way or a (non)place to spend a life. There are real people around waiting for us to look up, there are real things and deep beauty unfolding around you while we’re fiddling the screens, there are so many things we’re missing. A simple bus drive is a magical thing, but we don’t see it. Seems we took a wrong turn somewhere. We’ve been given a high powered tool without any instructions on how to use it and manage its demands on our attention and time. This should be a new course in schools – the digital etiquette. Please look up from your phone this weekend. Your town is starting to get that special kind of gorgeousness it does this time of year. Don’t miss the process. Look up.