I’ve been uninspired of late. Probably because the batteries ran out in my remote six weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten around to replacing them.
Desperate for something to make me angry, I popped to my local Co Op, and bought one of those bundles of trashy magazines (Ragazines) for £1.99. For that kind of dollar, you know it’s going to be quality editorial.
Sure enough, 18 pages in and I’m confronted with an article about a teenage girl so addicted to her appearance on social media, she takes up to 200 selfies a week. This got me thinking about the nature of reality for those coming of age in the digital era.
When I was growing up in the early 90’s, there was a huge amount of hype about a new technology called Virtual Reality. Futurists predicted that in the decades to come, we’d all be wearing skin-tight rubber suits, wired up to supercomputers through which we’d experience digital universes so real that the boundaries between nature and electricity would be all but non-existent.
These ideas were most famously represented in the movie The Lawnmower Man. Although the graphics in this movie are laughable by today’s standards, when the movie first came out it was a nightmarish vision of the future, where people would become addicted to these slick virtual worlds and completely lose interest in real life.
Only the other day, I was laughing at how Virtual Reality had never really amounted to much. It was just one of those silly predictions that never really materialised, such as anti-gravity cars and self-cleaning houses of the future.
But thinking about it, although we aren’t wearing the rubber suits and oversized visors (except for Ms Gaga), the truth is that young people really are living in a virtual reality.
The way the girl in the article describes her addiction to selfies implies a sense that she’ll cease to exist if she doesn’t continually post images of herself online.
Similarly (and I am super guilty of this one), most of us these days are addicted to documenting our every move. If I forget to take my camera to a concert, I’m devastated. It’s almost as if without the digital images and videos to prove it, I wasn’t really there.
Social media is chock-a-block full of people ‘Checking In’ so we can all see where they are eating that delicious steak they just Instagrammed. The biggest surge of donations to charity recently have been generated by the concept of no-make-up selfies. £3 is a very small price to pay for the validation from your peers that you look “so young and fresh” without make-up on. Even if it took you eight hours (and a teeny bit of ‘barely-there’ make-up).
Are we so obsessed by documenting our lives and sharing the following minutiae with the world that we are actually missing everything?
It would seem that a life represented in pixels is fast becoming more real to most than life seen through your own lenses.
Sadly, some children’s digital existence is so intrinsically linked to their sense of self that they are taking their own lives due to online bullying, or Trolling. You’d think that simply switching off the computer and walking away would be enough to gain some perspective, however the balance between how much value is given to material reality versus digital reality is already unbalanced in favour of the latter.
I’m not judging – I am affected too. If I weren’t, I would be eloquent enough to air my views to an audience of real time humans. Instead, here I am typing away on my computer in the hopes of reaching out and sharing my points of view with the ether. But, dear reader, digital audiences can’t interrupt. Can they?