Posts by: Matthew Dyman
Technology has become a second job we didn’t know we had, ****Alice****said to the March Hare.
While the recent article “The Joy of Quiet” by Pico Iyer in the NY Times is what inspired this particular rant, the conversation about technology’s obfuscation of our lives, the way we communicate, and how we spend our free time has been rolling out of my mouth for years now. I read the article just before leaving for yoga, went downstairs and heard my housemate talking to his friend about it. It was spreading fast. After class, I talked to Erin Duncan about it, she had read it, and admitted to having posted it on her facebook profile, ironically but understandably falling into the technology loop the article discusses. But if we are going to spread the spirit of technological restraint, social media is the fastest way to do it. ****
There has been a noticeable rise in the discussion of technology versus our lives. A couple weeks ago I saw an advertisement in a newspaper: “Introducing the ‘de-tech’ detox, a holiday without modern gadgets”. Since when did a vacation have modern gadgets? Since when did we feel we had to pay someone at a resort to “gently remind” us, as stated in the ad, to leave our blackberries in the room that does *not*, at extra cost, come with a TV. Pico Iyer mentions Yoga and Tai Chi as activities people are genuinely becoming interested in, as opposed to them being new age fads. The rather long and silly Jan 5th NY Times article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” does state: “yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011”. I see this meteoric rise coinciding with that of social media and the increasing ease with which to access it. We are falling down a rabbit hole of technology and yoga is one of the hanging roots that people are grasping for, to slow their inevitable descent into a curious and nonsensical Wonderland. ****
A friend confessed he could no longer read beginning-to-end two paragraphs on a computer, without at least one quick check of something unrelated; facebook, a link to a photo, a fragment of a video, anything. He says he has never felt so lacking in attention. You have too many choices, thus nothing feels like the best use of your time. Or you try to do multiple things at one time, or you choose one thing to do, but afterward feel regret because maybe you could have chosen something else. I think this angst can be called ‘fragmentation’.
No one can deny the usefulness of cell phones, but they also got an early start on warping our lives. Text messaging in particular, they have destroyed our sense of commitment. Before cell phones, when you made a date you had two choices. You showed up at the time and place you agreed on, or you stood someone up. Now, there is no expectation that anything will occur the way it was agreed upon, if there was any real agreement to begin with (which is becoming increasingly common). You don’t try too hard to be
on time, because you can always text them with updates on where you are, and somehow that makes up for it. You can cancel at just about anytime, you can offer a change of venue or activity, and things can spiral into a shootout of text messages and phone calls and you finally meet, harried, at some completely different place with a whole new evening. That’s not ‘spontaneity’, and I don’t consider that fun. That’s stress, and a deterioration of trust and solidity. I recall a chapter in the book “American Psycho” where a handful of late 20’s friends, all at their respective homes talking via a 3 or 4 or 5 way phone call, quibble indecisively about where to go out to eat that night, where to meet up, what to eat, who else should join . . . restaurant reservations are made, cancelled, and the absurdly long chapter ends mid sentence with no conclusion. This satire took place in the late 80’s. Now imagine the same thing with people moving around talking on iphones while using google and yelp to find restaurants. Come to think of it, that doesn’t seem all that
absurd or even uncommon these days. Makes me think of when you stare straight down on an anthill and try to make sense of what individual ants are doing.
When most celebrities and many major politicians throughout the world have twitter accounts that people regularly follow to get news and develop their opinions, there is no real voice of moderation for the use of technology. Have you ever heard a celebrity or politician tell people not to follow them on twitter, to leave facebook alone and go play soccer? No, because social media connects them to fans, viewers, customers, and eventually money and votes. All drenched in increasingly provocative and manipulative
advertisements. People are wandering this bizarre landscape of Wonderland, some as mad as the Hatter, others, like ****Alice****, increasingly fearful and looking for an escape. This technology is no longer just a fun way to post a humorous observation to all your friends and family at once, but a crappy part time job you didn’t realize you had: tag these photos, reply to this email, tweet that joke, accept this friend request, text that person, research these restaurants for happy hour, rearrange that Itunes play list,
check this daily comic strip, respond to that wall post, sign up for online dating, reply to this text, “no I wanna go 2 that other club”…****
Social media like Facebook is a breakthrough for keeping in touch with people, especially for someone who has moved many times such as myself. But when I really think of social media, I think of sitting alone in my room, looking at friends who I can’t possibly see anytime soon, and frustratingly inane comments by acquaintances I don’t care to see again. You may have access to 1,000 ‘friends’ profiles, but when you go to Boundless, you have a handful of real people who all want to be there, are carrying no cell
phones, and are as interested in an hour of quiet as you are. An artist friend of mine derided yoga as “selfish” and I understand the misconception with its emphasis on turning in, focusing on your own breath, your own body, closing your eyes, blocking all else out, but it’s the idea that you are focusing, however internally, *with* others. If private lessons cost aslittle as regular classes, how many of you would regularly attend those over a Monday night class with Erin Duncan and other Yogi’s? How successful is your private practice at home, alone in your room?
There will be many more life altering inventions, the likes of which neither Philip K Dick novels nor Spielberg adaptations like Minority Report can predict, and advertisements will continue to encroach on our attention,and we will have more ways to communicate and less to say, but we will always have one last place to retreat, or should I say, *wake up*: the breath.
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