Andersen: No digital handcuffs for me
October 20, 2014
"Never offline!" announced a recent Time magazine about the new Apple Watch. Time's pronouncement might just as well have introduced the absurd apocalypse, the humanist holocaust, the dystopian dilemma.
"Wearable tech … change your life …seductively designed …annihilating memories of anything that came before … personal and intimate … colonize our bodies … puts your whole body online."
These are sound bites from the newest sales pitch, which Time accurately describes: "Apple creates demand for things that there previously was no demand for. It takes products we never wanted and convinces us we can't live without them."
What we're supposed to get excited about is a shackle to the digital age through bondage to overbearing cultural conformity driven by the commercial buzz of mass-produced electronic gadgetry.
Psychic claustrophobia already affects millions who are covered by a digital shroud that smothers them in bytes and bits. In a world where "everyone has a smartphone," try pulling out an aged dumbphone and you'll get weird looks and hushed whispers. "How laughably old-fashioned he is."
Thoreau prescribed the antidote 150 years ago in a potent essay describing his deep connectivity with the natural world. His words ring true today, inciting an apostasy against the machines trying to strap us to the material wheel.
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"What is this Titan that has possession of me?" effused Thoreau. "Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature, daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact!"
Thoreau's elated experience is a world apart from what Apple is producing today, where connective media are stultifying, depressing, demeaning and exploitative.
Invasive technology by this profit-crazed corporation isn't a boon to quality of life; it's a nightmare of addictive behaviors writ large on an entire culture. The tech-addled future is not the rosy horizon we've been looking for; it's a forced indoctrination into feckless conformity.
Going online today implies surrender to the commercial control of inputs — all for a vampire-like craving for the jugular of rampant consumerism. In this world, everything is an advertisement, everything a come-on. The Internet is a black hole sucking human individuality into the vacuum of things and stuff.
People are so plugged in that they might as well swallow their smartphones and fart out messages with whatever ringtones they choose. On a subway platform in Washington, D.C., last month, I looked around and realized I was the only one whose ears weren't stuffed with earbuds blasting the static noise of Muzak du jour.
Even in the beauty and quiet of Aspen, I see people walking the Rio Grande Trail chatting bipolar-like into a headset while the gentle murmur of the river completely escapes their attention. There's so much verbiage in the air that the alphabet is getting worn out and eardrums are collapsing from the weight of words, no matter how empty.
Just because it's a smartphone doesn't mean it's devoid of idiotic content. Observing the average user squinting at the tiny letters on a tiny message screen presages a future pandemic as eye strain becomes the newest, most trendy national ailment. They don't make contact lenses thick enough to see the latest apps or miniaturized messages.
Fear not. With the new high-tech approach, you won't need to ruin your eyes to learn about your Facebook friend's bowel movements, fashion conundrums and grocery lists. It will all be piped right into you through an intravenous feeding tube pumped full of hypnotic nonsense.
Big Brother has succeeded with devious brilliance in snaring the unwary with lures of social acceptance, dating opportunities, career advancement and moronic games. Dependency on techno-stimulus is pathetic and deserved. This culture has bought into the manipulative insanity that sells us virtual celebrities and politicians.
It's time to turn this madness around and get a freakin' life. It's time to move beyond the tsunami of digital blather to where it's possible to think without being thought to.
Unplug, deprogram, disconnect! Declare independence from The Man, The Machine, The Watch. Discover what Thoreau meant by "Contact" before our brains are rewired. It's the only thing that can save humanity from itself.
Paul Andersen's column appears on Monday. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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