Saturday, 20 August 2011
Hooptedoodle #33 – OMG, Austria's just the same
Preamble: Even I am beginning to realize that yet another rant on the subject of smart phones is getting preciously close to boring. What follows is primarily intended to be humorous, and – naturally – I hope that any readers will take it in good spirit. A few preliminary notes may help set the context here.
(1) However it may appear, I am not opposed to Apple, or their very impressive products, nor the people who buy and use them. I am, in truth, something of a technology fan myself. If you have an iPhone and find it useful for making telephone calls, sending messages, taking pictures and entertaining yourself then that is excellent. My problem is the addictive, life-smothering hold which the device has over the susceptible young.
(2) My concerns are real and well-intentioned; friends and former associates of mine, seeking to recruit good quality school leavers in Britain, have growing concerns about the ability of supposedly bright kids to spell, write a sentence, actually (like) speak to people, even to form relationships in the shadow of the uncontrollable growth of communication technology.
(3) Doctors, social workers and educators are confronted by new kinds of nervous and mental disorders in the young which may be attributed to excessive exposure to the Internet, video games and the smart phone.
(4) At a personal level, I am a bit saddened, spending my vacation in an unfamiliar country, to observe that the situation looks to be similar here.
(5) I have difficulty imagining someone writing in to claim that he/she is obsessed with a shiny electronic device which they carry around in their pocket, and thus that they are wounded by my perceived hostility. Since I am clearly a madman, given to spasms of ridiculous intemperance, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to be sufficiently bothered by my views to take offence (though, of course, there may be some helpful souls who just cannot help themselves from putting me straight).
Enough with the preamble, already – let’s get on with the rant.
On my train journey back from Innsbruck the other day, a young man sat opposite me for about 8 minutes or so, as the train took him from one suburban station to the next. From his clothing, I guess he was a plasterer, possibly a bricklayer - a working man, anyway, and he was going home from work. Good for him. During the 8 minutes (no, I was not staring) he listened to music on his iPhone, and looked - every 15 seconds or so, I would estimate - to see if he had any messages on this same device. Then he was gone, and I was left to wonder idly at the extent to which the iPhone and its close equivalents have altered the lives of a complete generation across all nations. Pavlov's dogs had nothing on this.
Yesterday I was in the town of Landeck for a few hours. At the bus station, there was a group of completely decent teenage girls, chatting, emitting forced laughter, like teenage girls throughout Europe, chewing gum and - inescapably - constantly checking their iPhones for incoming text.
Apple is now the biggest company on the planet. A vast, sad, worldwide cohort of young people who believe themselves to be some kind of technology-enabled quantum leap for Evolution spend a depressing amount of their time on non-communication. I realise that it is a stupid generalisation to dismiss all messages passed on smart phones as dross, but I strongly suspect that the meaningful stuff is completely swamped by the amount of subtransactional excrement about what Tracy said Fiona said about Emma's boyfriend, and what a bitch she is anyway. Technology my backside.
My good, if profane, friend Mr Crick tells me that recently he read with surprise that some magazine or other had conducted a survey of iPhone users to learn what was their favourite position for sex. He says he deliberately did not check the results, since it might have damaged his (totally unreasonable) belief that, in general, iPhone users prefer their sex unaccompanied. [Anyone who is offended by this should have read Mr Crick’s original version.]
Apple now owns all our souls because advertising and mass idiocy have convinced vast numbers of kids that they are compelled to belong to something trendy. I have no doubt that in a year or so I too will have such a device, and probably I shall depend upon it. If it happens, it will be because it is no longer possible to park your car, use internet banking or book cinema tickets if you don't have one. I am also confident that my spelling, word power and imagination will have declined dramatically, along with everyone else's.
I wonder what the next big leap will be? What invention will make iPhone dwellers realise that they no longer have total control of the Universe, that they really need to move on to the Next Big Thing? Somehow, I find this article strangely comforting - though the source is the dreaded Daily Wail, a newspaper whose ideological alignment is usually some way from my own.
Maybe it isn't just me, then, though I have to admit that if it's just me and the Daily Wail then I may consider suicide more seriously.