Thursday, April 23, 2009

What'd You Say? Sorry, I Was Texting.

Haunted (When the Minutes Drag) - Love and Rockets (mp3)

Please do me and yourself a favor and take the 3:22 seconds necessary to watch this guy from

Sometimes -- and when you're an egotistical attention freak like me, it's very rare -- you feel it's more important that someone else's brilliant observations be viewed in the stead of your own.

"It's the shared narratives that make us a culture."

Everything about his brief talk gives me pause. His brief talk, complete with damning pictures, is likely to have a more significant long-term impact on how I use and interact with my phone versus my surroundings in a more substantial way than Fast Food Nation managed to alter my dietary choices. At the very least I'm gonna think before I respond to those hip vibrations. (Yes, insert your own fun Michael Scott jokes here.)

None of this is intended to point fingers at anyone reading this. We're all the captains of our own ship -- well, us and fate/God/Stephen Hawking -- and how you steer yours is yo biznass. But something about the picture of that girl taking a picture of her getting a very awkward kiss leaves me really cold. Something about 2,000 cell phones being raised during the Obama Moment leaves me really sad. Something about that dude texting when his child is staring up at him, hungry for his attention, leaves me achingly guilty and horrified.

More and more often, I'm in meetings where the person who called the damn meeting gets a call and excuses himself or herself from the damn meeting they called. They gather people into a room and then leave these people to talk to other people, leaving us serfs to sit around and stare at one another, realizing how friggin' low on the totem we must be.

And teenagers -- I'm not one of those bitter adults, I swear -- they seem to be living half their life, often more, staring at tiny screens while the beauty of life swirls around them. But because they're attuned to that screen, what's around them gets labeled "boring." I don't mention this to damn them, but to wonder what kind of effect this will have -- for better or worse -- on their adulthood, after they've spent years, literally, communicating more with people via satellite and DSL than via actual speaking to actual people.

We are increasingly living meta-existences, lives based more on what kind of reality we can "share" with others who aren't physically with us at the moment than on what kind of reality we can share with those around us IN the moment. It might not be all bad -- and there's more than plenty good about it -- but it's still a little frightening, and I feel better for sensing a real need to be at least a little more conscientious about it.

If I'm texting someone in the middle of something else, there are one of two reasons: (1) I'm less interested in what's happening in reality than what could or should happen by communicating with someone via cyber-reality; (2) I'm so intrigued by my environment that I feel this intrigue and fascination can be increased by sharing it with someone who's not present.

In the instance of (1), it seems shameful but understandable. With (2), I'm not sure why it can't wait until later, until being involved in (2) doesn't risk superceding the very reason for roping them in to begin with.

But mostly I'm still trying to figure it all out...

"Haunted..." comes from one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, She's Having a Baby. You should leave work now, watch the movie, buy the soundtrack, and offer to have John Hughes' baby. Just sayin'.


Daisy said...

I am still for the most part an old fashioned talk on the phone kind of girl. Most of the time when someone texts me I respond with a phone call.

Guess I'll have to enter the world of text if I want to talk to my kids at all once they are teenagers, but I'm holding out as long as I can!

T.R. said...

I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the speaker in the video, and I also enjoyed canceling my data plan on the crackberry. I feel much less tethered to other peoples needs now. It was very liberating. I recommend it to anyone who has been leashed by a data/text plan. I have decided it is not always good to be reachable.

Scott Maples said...

...and the extended album version with extra lyrics if from Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven.

Jason said...

I have particularly enjoyed your last two posts Billy. It was almost scary to me how relevant both were to my day to day thinking. Both as a wake up call and some introspective thinking. Thanks.

Tockstar said...

I've been taking long walks this week. On the first day, I left my cell phone at home and was gone for about two hours. It was a wonderful, rejuvenating two hours, and all I was doing was walking around my neighborhood. The second time, it was a little later so, for the sake of "safety", I put my phone in my pocket. Instead of taking a walk, I was thinking about people I should call about various matters. Even though it only rang once and I only made a brief phone call, it changed the tone and timbre of the entire walk.

Something I really lament is that, as that video and your post so eloquently stated, constant communication deprives us of the chance to be fully present in any activity. When I went to concerts or shows or hung out with my friends when I was a kid, I was immersed in the situation. Tonight, I'll be heading to the school musical and I fully expect to see screens lighting up all around me for the duration of the show. I feel sad for these kids - and us - in this era.

Great post. Definitely strengthened my resolve to ditch the phone.