Brazilian illustrator Felipe Luchi made this exquisite illustration for Go Outside Magazine. It’s the perfect definition of this digital life.
We are prisoners of our phones and tablets and all our digital crap. I am. You are. We all are. We get sucked into these stupid machines, see reality through them. Instead of empowering us, we insist on giving them our power. We even attach our feelings to them. It’s sad.
A few years ago, a friend of mine lived as a slave to her mobile—and her boyfriend, this blonde sailor with the looks of Thor Odinson and the brains of a shark penis. He had her around her finger and treated her like shit. Same old story.
One of the ways he played with her feelings was with the phone, torturing her with the timing of his replies. Waiting, always waiting for a reply, my friend slept with her phone on her chest every night. Why hasn’t he gotten back to me yet? Why is it taking him so long to write? The phone became some kind of totem, a love angst juju. It became her prison: empowering her with the ability to communicate, but simultaneously trapping her in dark silence. Then it illuminated: the addict’s fix, which only increased her dependance on the man and the device.
I know it wasn’t the phone’s fault. The technology is never to blame. We are. But the phone made this possible, and my friend is just one example of how persistent connectivity can degrade the human experience. It used to be that humans had the time and patience to enjoy other things in life. I’m an old bastard. I remember that. We’d stop and talk to people. We’d play on the streets and in fields. Find adventures. Invent them. Not only as kids. As adults too. It’s just not like that anymore, and it’s only getting worse.
Instead of using our phones and tables as tools of empowerment, we are increasingly turning them into prisons that consume our time and attention. Through them we have access to vasts islands of information, but that information is trapped in oceans of mud. We choose to dive in, and then we find it hard to get out. These devices allow us to create a permanent nexus between ourselves and our family, friends, and lovers. That’s good—in a way. The dark side is that we place too much importance on the digital bond, increasingly choosing to ignore the real world around us.
These devices were designed to be windows, yet we insist on turning them into walls; they surround our lives and hide reality. They become thick lenses through which we literally view the world that is just in front of our eyes. How many times have you seen someone standing in front of something amazing, and looking at it on the screen of their phone? A presidential inauguration, a birthday party, a concert… the Superbowl. The cellular traffic coming from AT&T subscribers in the Superdome’s network on Sunday was “a record 388 GB—80% more than last year.” These people paid thousands of dollars to watch the event live, and still ended up seeing Beyoncé through a screen. Why?
I’m guilty of this as well. And yes, it’s the tired cliché of a luddite—but I’m getting sick of it. We just can’t keep experiencing life through terminals instead of our own senses. We should do something about this. I know I will. And you can too. Not by leaving the Internet and our phones and computers completely. That’d be stupid.
No. Perhaps we should just try be a bit more sensible about it—as with any other addictive substance. I like a good whisky, but I don’t have to drink three bottles of it every day. I can do the same with phones and tablets and computers: Play more Lego. Play more piano. Go outside. Don’t use the phone at all while I’m with others. Read. Walk. Go to the movies. Createsomething with my own hands. Get real.
These are things that I already do, but I need to do more. I want to be even less connected to the virtual world, but more connected with tangible things. Read less of your bloody tweets and Facebook updates and Instagrams and not watch your stupid Vines. It’s just about getting some control back. Some self-control. I know I’ve done it before and it felt good. Now I just have to stick with it. Maybe a two-month sabbatical is a good start.
And yes, I know what you are going to say. It’s ok. Say it in the comments. Then you can go tweet yourself.