I see it everywhere: on buses; on trains; in elevators; on the streets, in the cars on the highway. Everywhere. My friends don’t even notice it. Heck, sometimes they are complicit in it! When I point it out to them, they have to really make an effort to step back far enough to see it objectively, and even then, they simply shrug it off as “normal.” Perhaps it’s because they made the transition first to Facebook–to socializing via computer screens–then to phone screens. They have lived the logical progression from one mode of screen-based social engagement to the next. I never did, and so, what I see around me now is surreal and shocking, bordering on horror-movie frightening!
It’s my own fault, though. I haven’t done the nomad thing in almost three years. I’ve been sequestered in paradise on Saipan, writing books, running on the beach, soaking in the sunshine, creating and living my reality of choice with minimal interaction with certain technological aspects of our ever-changing world! And now–having returned to nomad skies and vagabond roads–I feel like I’ve landed into an oddly familiar, alternate-reality-diverted-timeline movie plot!
Yep, I feel like Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson’s character) in the comedy movie, Idiocracy who is chosen for a one-year human hibernation experiment, but wakes up 500 years in the future to an unrecognizable world. Combine that with a plot element from The Matrix where everywhere I turn I see humans who believe they are engaging with reality, but who, in reality, are plugged into a computer program simulation.
In this movie in which I find myself, commuters in subway stations and pedestrians on the streets rush forward at breakneck speed with their heads down, smart phones in hand, fingers tapping, looking up only for the split second it takes to avoid colliding with other similarly “plugged in” commuters (and not always being successful at that)! Inside the train cars, 9 of 10 people are in the same plugged-in position–head down, elbows bent, phone in hand (I once say one girl walking with two phones), swiping left, swiping right, up, down, tapping, watching movies, playing games or texting. No one is talking. No one is making eye contact. In this brave, new world, there are no chance meetings, no smiles shared between passengers, no pickup lines and numbers being exchanged! Nope, no “howdy, stranger, where are you from?” happening on this train ride. I can’t NOT see it! It jumps out at me all the time! I’ve seen it in both Hong Kong and Macau.
Similarly, when I see couples, families and friends in restaurants, it’s the same scene–people interacting with screens instead of each other. Yesterday, for example, I spent the day in Hong Kong with a friend, and had lunch at Harmony Village restaurant. I looked over at the other diners and saw the perfect illustration of how times have changed:
Notice anything comment-worthy in this photo?
Well, if you don’t, here’s what I see:
“Let’s have lunch” on the left: two friends (or family members, perhaps) of an earlier era. They are facing each other, sitting upright, having a conversation, and making eye contact while eating their food.
“Let’s have lunch” on the right: two friends of modern times (coworkers on lunch hour, judging from their attire). They are seated side by side, hunched over, focused on their phone screens, no eye contact, minimal conversation. Their food is actually already on the table, having been served just a few moments prior. I saw one girl look up for a split second at the food and then return to her screen; and even when she started eating, she continued holding the phone in her left hand, and her chopsticks in the right.
(Question: what would YOU do if you went on a date with someone who couldn’t put their smart phone down and held it in one hand while eating? I know what I’d do, and the funny part is, she might not even realize that I left!)
Yep, this is what “let’s have lunch” means these days. Welcome to reality. Your red pill awaits.
p.s. In any event, speaking of my day in Hong Kong…
Hey, look! It’s Usain! Big tings a gwan!
The new phase of Standard Chartered Bank’s “Here for Good” campaign kicks off in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. This phase (“Good enough Will Never Change the World”) showcases a series of inspirational short films featuring people who accomplished extraordinary things because they wouldn’t settle for “good enough”. The launch video, published today, stars Jamaican sprinter and Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
“I always say ‘never think limits’ and ‘anything is possible’. It is not enough to dream big – you need to push through barriers to realise your dreams. When you have an end goal in mind and you’re passionate about it, you can find the will and the strength to break through boundaries and achieve that goal,” Bolt said*. (More about the global campaign)–From Marketing Interactive, earlier this year.
*And, for the record, that’s precisely what my “Jamaican in China…and beyond” blog is all about–breaking through these arbitrary lines we call national borders, as well as other self-imposed limitations, and societally-promoted worldviews and stereotypes to boldly go and see the world fearlessly (and inexpensively)!
Next time you hear from me, I’ll be Jamaican in Vietnam! (I wonder what the smart phone culture will be like over there!)
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