Living through your screen
These days, more often than not when I go out with friends I’ll find myself in a situation where at least one person will whip out their smart phone and deliberately use it as a distraction.
Possibly because being in my presence is so boring that any sort of distraction is welcome, but I’d like to think not. However I have noticed this behavior in other social groups as well which leads me to believe that it’s not just my bad jokes turning people off.
When did it become socially acceptable to disengage from your friends and live in your virtual world? When did it stop becoming rude and become acceptable? People don’t seem to have any hesitation to pull out their iPhone, check their Facebook, make a Tweet, play some Farmville, waste away on Youtube or even worse… check in on Foursquare. Do people really need to know where you are all the time? Or is it a matter of feeling close to your friends without exerting as much effort as it only takes to type their name?
It seems to me that we are more content at living our lives through our screens rather than taking the time and effort to make a human connection. Myself included, I’d rather do all my interactions behind a digital safety blanket, because thats what it is. Theres no emotion found on my Facebook pages, which makes dealing with my ‘friends’ a heck of a lot easier and safe. Hassle-free friendships.
The future for us as designers and developers (from all trades, but I speak from my web experience) is not how to make the hottest gradient, or how to make a perfect Apple-like wet floor effect, but rather break these invisible strings that attach us to our electronic devices. Although these devices achieve their original goals of sharing free information to the masses and keeping people in contact, it seems that the rise of digital entertainment is costing us our human interaction skill set.
There are one billion views on Youtube per day! Isn’t this alarming? Will there be a point when this digital entertainment outshadow everything? How much time do you spend on Youtube a day? I’m going to guess probably too much. What if instead of spending your time on Youtube you went to learn something new? Probably something amazing. Do you care? Probably not, and you’ll go back to watching Youtube regardless, I know I would. Its hard to avoid these pitfalls because the internet and our devices are tailored to encourage these distractions. Of course there is a time and place for such sites so it is on us to monitor ourselves.
We need to create a crossroads because if we keep going down the same path then we will be a society of attention deficit, unimpressed, demanding people. And as designers and developers we need to consider how our digital life improves, or degrades our real world well being. Otherwise whats the point? Do you really want to look back in 20 years time and be horrified by how much time you spent mindlessly surfing the internet as life passes you by? We need to build our virtual environments in a way that improve our physical well being.
Although my article doesn’t provide any answers, because really I have no idea how to approach this situation, I think this important food for thought.
With our current knowledge and intellect we should develop our virtual environments that enrich our lives, and not move our lives into the digital realm and in turn live through it.