It’s just gone midnight and no matter how many re-runs of The Great British Bake-Off I watch, I simply can’t sleep. I wish it was because my mind was full of important questions, like how they get the jaffa bit inside the jaffa cake so perfectly round – but it’s simply not the case. Do you know what my brain is full of? Tweets. Tweets and posts, statuses and photos, phone notifications and YouTube clips, these tiny fragments of other people’s lives, other people’s dinners, that seem to make up the very fabric of our everyday. Do you know, the other day I heard a bird singing in the street and I genuinely thought it was that sound your phone makes when you tweet. I then tweeted what had just happened; there were so many layers of irony in those 5 minutes, it was like walking through a giant vat of custard.
Our generation love to project ourselves online… Is it sharing, or oversharing? We seem to be a society so obsessed with everyone else’s business, that we simply have no words of our own. Because, after all, what is Twitter, what is Facebook, but a regurgitation – a repetition of David Cameron’s false promises, Russell’s Brand’s jokes and a billion-shared articles from Buzzfeed. As a generation, perhaps we are not saying anything, but we are repeating each other, each time with touches of our own commentary, until we are all one giant disco ball, reflecting all over the room but creating no actual light.
Let’s all be honest for a second. When was the last time you went out and someone wasn’t on their phone? It seems to have a become a given: technology first, people second. It’s at the cost of all manners; it’s become socially acceptable to be rude. I wonder sometimes whether our conversations are organic, or they are increasingly founded in the artificial – the very elements of our online lives – posts we’ve read, photos we’ve seen, parties we weren’t invited to. In a world where everything is open, everything is asking to be analysed, I wonder whether we have lost a sense of self – forgetting how to create, how to laugh, how to be in each other’s company, without needing to tag it, post it, or tweet it.
What about events that go on way too long, rather than the ones you rush through so you can get to the next destination? I think our phones have made humans act like they are constantly on crack – we’ve sped up, greedy for online interaction, consumption of experiences, virtual connections, and we’ve forgotten what it’s like to just sit, to be and to chill. That’s why I bloody hated it when they brought WiFi onto the tubes – that ride on the Jubilee Line every morning was my own person version of heaven, like listening to Enya, because you actually got to see into people’s eyes, not just the top of their heads as they checked Mail Online.
Which brings me onto my next point. Romance. Have you considered for a second, how fucking weird TINDER is. I mean, seriously, an app where you literally ‘play’ the opposite sex, discarding them like ugly toys in your cot. I think if nothing else it’s the most perfect example of how disposable everything is for us. Perhaps when we all became so obsessed with our phones, our vocal chords become a bit reduntant, but with Tinder it feels as if the whole idea of love and romance is disposable too.
I’ve always hated the phrase ‘he completes me’. There’s something about it – about that need to be completed, which annoys me. Friends, family, boyfriends add to my life – but they don’t complete it – because that would suggest there is essentially something lacking in it in the first place. Can’t you be complete, on your own? Is 1 simply half of 2? And Tinder if nothing else has aggravated that essential vulnerability, that need to be ‘completed’, to have company, reassurance that you’re not alone, that in fact everyone is just a 1 looking to become a 2. And it makes romance redundant. It removes mystery, surprise, charisma, and reduces us all to the world of those illustrated speech bubbles. We’re bigger than bubbles. The famous song was Love Me Tender wasn’t it?
I’m a big fan of emerging technology. I think it’s seriously exciting that there’s an app where you can scan a foreign word with your camera and the English translation appears on the screen (yep, really), that a 3D pen actually exists and that I can track how many people have typed in the word ‘fluffy pink banana dildo’ and somehow stumbled on my blog, but I think we need to be careful. These things creep up on us, one minute you’re checking your phone every 30 minutes, and the next we’re all in a giant video game, watching our reality projected everywhere but in front of us.
I’ve been working on some rules for maintaining decorum in the 21st century… I thought of old Janey Austen in bed and how bloody appauled she would have been if Dancy had started Whatsapping during the Netherfield Ball; they might never have had it off. In the sprit of Janey, here’s my tips for survival:
1. Scheduling is a thing. Loads of people use ‘work’ as an excuse to be constantly on their phones. But if you’ve got to use social media for work purposes, outside the hours of work, there are great things you can use to schedule social. Recently we’ve been big on Buffer App to plan tweets and look for the little clock icon under a Facebook post to schedule it. Hey presto.
2. Latergram is a thing too. I’m a big fan of the old Instagram, but I think you’ve got to be wary of the becoming the Instantgrammer. Take photos, but do that depth-of-field effect and upload them on the drunken bus home. That way you’re not the person doing the phone dance on the D-Floor like a broken robot.
3. Switch the bloody thing off. Sounds basic, but when was the last time any of us did it.
4. Self-Control App. Apparently the average 18-24 year old spends 2.3 hours a day on Facebook, and women are 43% more likely than men to flick through photos for up to 4 hours. We also are 66% more likely to stalk an ex’s new girlfriend, but that’s by the by. Anyway Self-Control is nifty if you want to block yourself out of social media entirely for a few hours. Useful at work, useful after a few drinks… Just useful.
5. ‘Listen and respond, listen and respond. When you’re in the room, be in the room’ Hitch
Will Smith is a man who speaks truth and we’re all guilty of not listening to people – it’s that half glazed, hand reaching to handbag look, that I think subconsciously we all know and interpret. It makes things fraught; it makes your mum shout at you. Listen to the world, and maybe the world will listen back.