Not yesterday, but the previous Sunday Suze and l went out for lunch with her cousin and her partner, brilliant people in their later 70’s – truly lovely people, and we went to a really nice little public house that was perhaps around 400 years old. You know one of those quirky pubs, low bearing beamed ceilings, darkened wooden floors and wonderfully polished bars to within an inch of their mahogany lives?
It was crammed solid with people, and a few dogs here and there, a typical English country pub, and we all had a really superb meal, great company, me allowed to be me, because well Pamela [Suze’s cousin] is considered the quirky one of the family with her bright purple DM’s and bright yellow laces. Pamela likes being different to the crowds and her partner Robert is pretty quirky in himself, l think deep down he is probably on the spectrum somewhere, like myself.
On the drive through stunning countryside with enough blue in the sky to make not just one pair of sailors pants, but an entire fleet, we didn’t really see many people, well apart from the usual Sunday drivers that cuss you for being polite on the roadside in your range rover and pulling to one side of precarious country lanes whilst they in their mini cars slowly stagger through the gap available that a skilled driver could probably get two buses through side by side and then these Sundayers as l call them glare at you with eyes of burning hatred for even being on the road in the first place – you probably know what l mean, you will have met them l am sure, l feel they are all fallen from the same genetical tree!
As we approached the village we started to see more people, and of those people we saw three lads in an tyre change garage standing outside in the forecourt in a loose circle engaged not in joyous chatter but furiously tap tapping on their mobile phones. All three of them were looking at their phones and not a single word was exchanged between whilst we sat and awaited the traffic lights to change to green. So for three minutes they were all face down looking at miniature screens and laughing to themselves.
Of course this is the natural state of play these days as far as digital communication goes l feel. I mean after the lunch, Suze had to stop in a supermarket to pick up some bits and pieces and l opted to stay in the car and as l watched in an observational position from the seat, in the space of the fifteen minutes Suze was shopping, l may have seen 100 people. Of those 100 people, l would have to say that around 70% had phones and they were with an array of ages from teenagers to the elderly, with the prime catchment being awarded to those in the age range of perhaps 20 – 45.
These 70 odd people were not just in singles, some were in groups, pairs, trios and so on, and they all had one thing in common – they were either surfing or texting or just viewing. Most of them were oblivious to their surroundings, and l saw 6 people actually bump into others because they weren’t looking where they were going. Making matters worse the people they bumped into were involved in the same activity and so after a brief exchange of almost Mexican standoff eyeballing, they realised that these too were fellow digital slaves and all was forgiven, and each bumpee carried on their merry way once more engrossed in their screens.
Once inside the pub, the four of us at our prebooked table quickly sat down and started to catch up with the latest ‘what’s on, what’s not and Goss!’ Not really into true gossip, never have been but Pamela and Robert are as said quirky souls, so their gossip is not the anal and banal idle chatter of the usual style, but we talk of an assortment of things from rocket science to philosophy and Suze’s family, the latter l switch off to and allow Pamela and Suze to talk about whilst Robert and l talk about other stuff such as what he is currently into, which is actually building wooden portable radios and if not that then, model sailboats. With a natural love for the miniature, it is never boring to me.
Both he and Pamela have just adopted a Greek street dog and so he got out his mobile phone which is similiar to mine, as in not a Smart phone and showed me the photos of their new dog which they shall be naming Nemo which is Latin and doesn’t mean or refer to the fish, but actually translates to .. according to Wikipedia
“Outis (transliteration of Ancient Greek Οὖτις, in capitals ΟΥΤΙΣ, from οὔτις “nobody” or “no one”) is an often used pseudonym. Artists, writers and others in public life use this pseudonym in order to hide their identity. The Latin equivalent Nemo is also often used.”
Which for the record, l think is an absolutely superb name for this beautiful looking Greek street dog. But as he was showing me, he looked up and said “Look Rory, look around the pub tell me what you see …?”
So l scanned the pub, which may have had some fifty odd pubbers and diners present, and told him that l saw roughly 50 people, four dogs, fifteen yellow and assorted yellow plus coloured jumpers, 22 pairs of blue jeans, and l went into detail and finished off with … and just half of the people, staff excluded so 27 people were not actually talking to other people but were goggle eyed at their phones. This figure also included seven people who had meals in front of them, and they weren’t children.
“Yes, it is an addiction, even if it is somewhat beguiling wouldn’t you say?”
I had to concede to saying that l felt this way anyway, that people had simply either forgotten to communicate with each other, or had no interest in actual talking or worse, had forgetten how to actually speak to their fellow human beings. We had a gentle laugh about it. We enjoyed our lunch and our time together then Suze and l left them, stopped at the supermarket and then drove back to see a forlorn dog who thought she had been abandoned .. for all of the four hours we were away, and my conversation with Robert whilst not forgotten, was shelved ……… until the following day.
Where upon l read an article in the newspaper which was highlighting the perils of my conversation with Robert only the previous day about people’s addictive behaviour with regards mobile phones.
I am sure l am not the only one who struggles to understand why people would want or wish to be with other people on a night out or a lunch or going out with friends on an outing to only then proceed to stare at a screen instead of the faces of the people who have either invited you and vice versa? Where is the fun in that?
Sure an Internet connected phone is brilliant for convenience on the move, but isn’t that supposed be what it is principally for – convenience and not replacement of communication as in totally? When did is become perfectly normal behaviour to be in a group of people who one would assume something is shared on common grounds be this friendship or similiar interests and then basically, just forget they are there and ignore them?
I get it that in the cases of text, email or making a call on the move that we can respond and reply much quicker than previous platforms that were available to us and that we can digitally communicate now much faster than say the old phone booth system, and email is so much more efficient than the old letter writing system, and with the likes of Skype and Whats App you can ‘talk’ to people quickly and more cost effectively, but that is ideal for situations when you cannot be with those people, right then, right now. But a group of friends out for a laugh should be able to talk to each other without the need for digital communication, surely?
We now live in a society where the likes of Social Media; Facebook and Twitter where upon people don’t actually really communicate with each other properly anymore, purely reliant upon the ‘media’. I had a Twitter account for nearly 18 months and gathered some 6000 followers which l closed down June 2017, because l found it boring, and totally lacking in any kind of ‘wham and kazazz!’. I have a Facebook account, and l belong to a couple of groups, but l hardly post in there anymore. I use it sparingly. I am guilty of using WP a lot, but whilst we have a sociable community here, it’s not that we are particularly being overly social here like the previously mentioned platforms.
Society and social media society is now fascinated more with receiving Likes and Follows and a grand status report on how digitally social’ you are being over how social you are truly being in real life? How does that make for great health? That society who many a time cusses gamers for their desire of the release of feel good chemicals into their brains with the ability to just feel good and achieve something are just as guilty in so far as receiving likes and follows and the amount of online lol’s is more important now than actual laughs from real people.
We are all becoming trapped into digital technology, whether we like it or not, and let’s be honest the suppliers of digital appliances want us like the chemical giants to be further ensnared into our own desires to be addicted to something, it’s all about control l feel. a classic case of them and us, and currently it’s them that are winning, not us.
So, how addicted to your digital technology are you?