I’m due to get my new smartphone tomorrow. The first one I’ve ever owned (yes, I know, I’m a dinosaur when it comes to this technological age). I’ve been putting off getting a new phone because I’m comfortable with my basic little nokia. It’s reliable, doesn’t require much charging and I know its buttons so well that I can predictive text and walk without looking at the screen. But it’s currently in its final “death rattle” stage and there’s no getting away from it. It’s time to embrace change and get a smartphone.
It got me thinking about why I’ve been so reluctant before now. I’m quite good at making the big decisions in life to do with relationships, career, travel, even buying a project-of-a house with a laissez fair, “it’ll all be fine” attitude. But the small everyday stuff leads to months of me flip-flopping about like a fish on the deck of a ship called “Procrastination”.
I think at the core of my slight resentment towards technology is fear. Fear of not really knowing what I’m doing; of feeling pressured by society to embrace social media or run the risk of being left behind. Then there’s the fear of a lack of privacy, of feeling like we have to be “on call” all the time and that people expect you to respond straight away. It feels to me that the lines between work time and leisure time are blurring, so that we’re very rarely “logging off”, in every sense of the word.
I read an article the other week about a guy who was writing about the fact that he was one of the last generation who grew up without the internet and I realised I’m also part of that era. Perhaps it’s part of the ageing process to look back on one’s youth and remember it as if through a soft-focus lens, imagining that those simpler days were generally happier days when you could play out in the woods without anyone knowing where you were and they didn’t mind as long as you turned up when dinner was on the table. Our sexual awakening as young teens seemed to be sniggering over rude words in Judy Blume’s coming-of-age books whereas the internet is a place which can “access all areas”. Even without having my own kids, I worry about what the younger generation is exposed to.
I know that the internet and all these technological advancements can be a force for good and I don’t think halting progression of any kind is the answer but sometimes I wonder if, for all the gains to be had from our gadgets and devices and from this online world (which can be so fascinatingly addictive), we run the risk of losing something more intrinsic to living an authentic human life. By “authentic” I mean really connecting – to each other face-to-face (if possible) instead of just through facebook or facetime and to nature and the living world around us. Having the time to listen and talk to each other without being limited to a certain number of characters or present what we feel to be a more successful version of ourselves.
As artists, heck, as people, I think it’s important to sometimes have space and silence – the privacy to withdraw from the wider world and enter into an inner world to sift through our own thoughts and ideas and communicate with our own muse in whatever guise he/she appears. I believe we all need to protect some time for ourselves where we can tap into whatever it is that allows us to express ourselves creatively – a communion if you like with inspiration, creative flow, divine spirit, God (feel free to substitute the term of your choice). Only we can do that for ourselves. We must be the protector and guardians of this sacred time.
So perhaps my fear is actually about having something in my life which will be yet another distraction. I’ll probably take one look at my shiny new smartphone tomorrow with all its apps and features and fall in love just a little bit. I will have to work extra hard not to get sucked in by its sleek design and all the games I could fill my time with and become dependent on. I shall have to guard my quiet, “me-time” even more ferociously, no doubt repeating to myself on a frequent basis “I own my phone. My phone does not own me!” I shall endeavour not to become my phone’s b***h!
(“Yeah, right!” I hear you all saying.)