This kind of stems from the fact that I've been reading this book over Christmas break:
The book, written in 2010, is set in a near future in which people have "apparats", which are a sort of personal tablet-like device that constantly uploads both conscious and subconscious information from them and broadcasts it globally over the internet. As a result, there are no personal boundaries whatsoever and there's more or less no stop to the release of information. People start to communicate almost exclusively through social media and instant messaging, to the point that speaking is known as "verballing". Online shopping also progresses to the point that people are constantly shopping and bidding on auctions online through their apparats and the pressure to consume skyrockets.
The book is a satire and purposefully over the top, but the more I think about it, the more it starts to feel like this world is about 5 years away. I mean every time I hang out with people, their phones are never very far from their hands and it's not uncommon at all to have stretches where everyone in the group has their face down staring at Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr on their phone. While they're making a point to take time out of their day to hang out with people! To me this is pretty ridiculous and it's an obvious sign that the human race, or at least the part of it that lives in developed countries and has access to this technology, is moving towards an existence where we communicate through a third party, like social media or instant messaging or whatever, as opposed to actually conversing with someone.
Case in point is how nobody actually uses their phone to make phone calls anymore. Everybody has gotten so used to the idea of texting somebody and having the recipient read whenever is most convenient for them, that people actually dread making phone calls now! I think it's pretty weird and ridiculous that such a wonderful and game-changing invention, the telephone call, is now abhorred because it involves direct interaction with a human being.
Over this break, my girlfriend has been visiting family in Germany. Man, long relationships are HARD! While it's completely astounding that What'sApp? allows me to converse with her in real time while she's on the other side of the planet, to me it totally fucking sucks that our only avenue of conversation is instant messaging, because I find it difficult to have that be the only way to talk to someone. I personally prefer in-person conversation or a phone call, but this has got to do for now, right? There's an ebb and flow to conversation, not to mention body language, that greatly relates to how you converse with someone that is just completely absent in instant messaging (yeah, I refuse to type IMing), and that stresses me out. I also really hate the idea that if you are close to someone, you have to be nearly constantly texting them or else they become paranoid or angry. It has more or less progressed to the point that you have to spend every moment of your time talking to people, with the only feasible reason being that you can multi-task and do things on your phone while you do other things as well. That is FUCKED.
This idea is what contributes most strongly to the satire in Super Sad True Love Story, I think. Instead actually speaking to one another, people either send messages over "GlobalTeens", which is basically skype, or spew out "verbals" that are just a mish-mash of pop-culture references of social media glub that may seem pretty funny when read on your computer, but sound absolutely pathetic coming out of a human's mouth. And seriously, is this even that far away? People my age are already way more comfortable throwing a tweeting at somebody or mentioning them on Facebook and also spend an absolutely asinine amount of time doing things of absolutely no importance or merit on their computer.
I realize that it's a little problematic that I'm using my personal blog on my computer to get my thoughts out, as this would certainly fall into the last category I described in the preceding paragraph. All that I can offer in my defense is that I do put a lot of effort into the things I write on this blog and while my writing is certainly victim to the vernacular, I like to think that this stuff is a little more composed and thought out than what you see on Facebook or Tumblr. I do recognize that IMU is perpetually riddled with grammatical errors though. I fix them when I see them, I swear!
I think the constant need to buy new technology or update what you have is what disgusts me most though. I didn't a cell phone until I was in 2nd year university, which was very late compared to almost everyone I know. Upon getting one, I had one of these for three years, which was the phone equivalent of bringing a Neanderthal's club to a gunfight. After that, I upgraded to a Blackberry which kept me current for about 3 months before the entire world started to get iPhones. Now people chuckle when I pull out my Curve to check a text and then ask me how I can live without SnapChat or Instagram or 2 gigabytes of monthly data on my plan or a phone camera with a higher resolution.
I was checking the Bell Mobility website the other day to see which types of upgrades I could look into, as my contract with the company is almost up. While at first I was amazed at how cheap I could get a brand new iPhone 5C for (and in my favourite colour blue to boot!), I shortly thereafter realized that in order to get this phone and acquire the clearly essential option of being able to put filters on pictures of my dogs, I had to sign up for a contract that would take me town for services that are much cheaper elsewhere. I realized quickly that my Curve would work just fine for now and could make do for the little while, but it's worth noting that the iPhone is by far the most popular, sexy and "must-have" phone in the eyes of the public and it is only offered by the bigger companies, who charge you up the ass contract-wise. They got what you need and you're fucking buying.
On the other hand, I now have virtually every piece of music ever composed at my fingertips, I'm free to look up any piece of information I'm wondering about and scholarly research is so much easier for me than it was for my parents that the two environments aren't even comparable. I guess I dread a time when saying "I totally heart you." is literally going to replace "I love you.", because it's seriously not very far off in my opinion.
In the mean time can we just please use the internet more for educating ourselves than for looking at pictures of cats and stupid jokes that only make sense on a computer screen?