I’ve been stewing over an article by Andrew Sullivan wrote a while back claiming that the iPod is the first horseman of the apocalypse.
Even without the white wires, you can tell who they are. They walk down the street in their own MP3 cocoon, bumping into others, deaf to small social cues, shutting out anyone not in their bubble.
Get on a subway, and you’re surrounded by a bunch of Stepford commuters, all sealed off from each other, staring into mid-space as if anaesthetized by technology. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t over-hear, don’t observe. Just tune in and tune out.
Technology has given us finally a universe entirely for ourselves – where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, or hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves, or an opinion that might actually force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished.
What gloom and doom! Goodness! Its like he’s never heard of the New York Times vs The Post and the fact that there are open minded people out there who read both. Or that people post things (usually with links) to their blogs that might challenge our thought processes, as Mr Sullivan did with his blog (it would seem the irony is lost here but I am sure its due to his iPod). I remember clearly back in the late 70s when Sony’s Walkman hit the market. The exact whining that the fabric of social interaction was going to unravel like a machine washed Prada sweater went on and on, even so far to see the walkman deemed illegal in certain situations. In my opinion, the acceptance of drugs and alcohol have more to do with the downfall of social interaction than a device that brings us music.
(I) realized I had left my iPod behind. Panic. But then something else. I noticed the rhthyms of others again, the sound of the airplane, the opinions of the cabby, the small social cues that had been obscured before. I noticed how others related to each other. And I felt just a little bit connected again. And a little more aware. Try it. There’s a world out there. And it has a soundtrack all its own.
I decided to “try it” and leave the iPod, Gameboy and books at home while travelling on public transit for seven days (the only time I actually use these to shut out the world). No distractions. Pure observations. I will record what I’ve heard (and seen if its of any importance to my spiritual growth) here daily. This may bore you and I hope it does. Apparently Mr Sullivan wants you to experience “life” in its yawning fullest.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Day 1!
Woman on cellphone: “I know. I am on the streetcar right now. I am headed to the office. No. No. (pause) (heavy sigh) NO. Look. No.” (it continues in this vein. She’s getting looks from people around her with each “no”).
Asian couple behind me engaged in conversation using a dialect I have no hope in deciphering.
Couple of students too far away to actually hear what they’re saying but the explosion of laughter makes a couple people sitting near me turn their heads to look.
Many people without iPods or CD players still block the doorway of the subway and even less move to allow people to get on or off.
More people reading papers than iPod/music players. Small percentage of that have both book/music player combo. Good for them for reading, I can hear Andrew say.
For the most part, not a lot of people were talking which has been pretty much the norm as long as I can remember and I’ve been taking transit in Toronto since the late 70s. As for the “serendipity of meeting someone”, there was not one single person who stuck out in my mind, not even a good looking bear I wanted to snog. I did notice that Newsweek put Martha’s head on a great body and slapped it up on their cover. But that came from sneaking a peek at a newspaper story. I guess I could have engaged the person beside me regarding this “technological wonder” but I would have been deemed a “streetcar freak” because you just don’t do that on public transit.