LIFESTYLE | Technology vs You: Striking a BalanceSunday, January 25, 2015
You'll have probably already seen 'Look Up' the spoken word film from Gary Turk, it was uploaded to YouTube in April 2014...
You'll have probably already seen 'Look Up' the spoken word film from Gary Turk, it was uploaded to YouTube in April 2014 and has amassed an incredible 49 Million views at the time of writing. We always hear of people saying a video has gone 'Viral', but sticking to the terminology, this video has spread quicker than Resident Evil's T-Virus - it's everywhere!
Unlike the T-Virus though, this film doesn't spread death or make people turn in to brain-eating zombies, it spreads a quite uplifting message of hope and potential. The film is split in to two parts, the first spelling out where technology has led us to today, and the second offering us a window into a future not too dissimilar to the past of our childhoods.
I've watched this many times over now, and even though it's under 5 minutes long, each time I feel like I learn something new about myself or about society in general. There are a few key themes from the film that I'd like to call out and talk about, as they really do affect us all and if left unchecked we could be heading down a dark, dark path.
Technology is wonderful, we can do things now that were almost unimaginable just 10 short years ago. I remember my first MP3 player could just about hold an album, but now they can hold tens of thousands of albums! Technology has the potential to enhance our lives, make them simpler, easier and get things done quicker. It should be seen as a tool to allow ourselves more time to spend on meaningful things, but instead it seems to be something we build our lives around.
It's as if we've created a strange virtual world within the physical world, a world that's more real than a virtual world, but less real than the real world (this definitely made sense in my head). We exist in the physical world, but live in this virtual world. We take photos of things we can touch, but share it in the virtual world via our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook followers or friends for them to like, comment on or just ignore.
Technology and Social Media has given us new ways of reaching out to people with similar interests all over the globe, and this is fantastic - it's quite an exhilarating feeling to look on my Google Analytics stats to see that people from over 200 countries have read my blog. But I'm worried that we may take things a little too far and eventually just forget to make contact with the people directly around us, or forget how to.
I was on the tube sat with my partner last Valentine's day, and saw a guy with a huge teddy bear and balloon, obviously making his way to a nice romantic date. In my own mind I saw this as one of those social situations where conversations can be struck up from out of nowhere, the art of conversation! But no, I tried to engage the guy and he was just not interested, giving me abrupt one word answers. I think to myself, if that same guy had put up a photo on Twitter, 100s of people would 'retweet', 'favourite' and even reply - so why was it seen as so odd for that to happen in real life?
Conversely, one of my friends travels around the world playing competitive chess - quite a fulfilling pastime really where he can travel to different countries, meet new people face to face and share in their love of chess! But if you were to look on his Social Media accounts, there isn't even a mention of this part of his life whatsoever, in fact there aren't all that many updates at all. Does this mean he lives a boring life with not a lot going on? I mean, he has very few photos for me to like, or videos for me to comment on, or statuses for me to reply to. This nicely brings me on the next key theme:
This certainly isn't a new phenomenon, we even have an old fashioned catchphrase or idiom to describe this exact scenario - "Keeping Up with the Joneses" - where we compare ourselves to our neighbours as a way of recognising our social class and status. Technology has exacerbated this in a few ways: we now compete with each other to stay up-to-date with technology and we can now reach a greater number of people to compare ourselves with.
The fast moving nature of technology means that one can be 'behind the times' pretty quickly, as mentioned before, we've moved from 64MB MP3 players to 64GB within just over a decade! We're also bombarded with adverts promoting the latest tech, so there's nowhere to hide in that sense. But technology really is only a small area for comparison, as it has opened up a window to a whole new universe of comparison.
Like I said earlier, we can reach out to people all over the globe much easier than ever before now to talk about common interests, and whilst this most certainly has an awful lot of positives, it also comes with a few drawbacks too. It also means that instead of just comparing ourselves to our neighbours or relatives, we can now compare ourselves to people who we may not have ordinarily came across in the real world. We can see the lives of others a lot more now, and the 'Look Up' film touches on this slightly, in that the lives of others we see are more than likely highly edited.
If you thought that photoshopping the appearance of models in a magazine was bad (it is!), then how bad is it that on the Internet we are all essentially Photoshopping our lives? As the owner of your social media accounts, you can post whatever you want, and more importantly leave out whatever you want. Nothing wrong with that at all, it's just unfortunate that some unscrupulous souls quite deliberately make a living out of the illusion they've created online. They present themselves as having perfect lives where everything is awesome, and put themselves out there as lifestyle gurus. They make, whether intentional or not, other Internet people aspire to the impossible - the perfect life. This is the danger of comparison in the social media age - it's virulent and you don't actually know what or who you're comparing yourself to.
This is what modern life all comes down to. Money. Without it, you can't buy the technology you need, you can't feed your social media profiles with daily updates of interesting and exciting and unique things you've done or seen. Similar to technology, Money is something that can really enhance our lives. With it, we can buy better things, open doors that always seemed shut and do things that never seemed possible.
But in a similar way to technology, we've built our lives around money, instead of using it to help build our lives. Society today is a race, a competition, to get a much money as possible. There are so many stats on this that it's unreal, but only this week some stuff came out showing that the richest 1% in the world will soon be worth more than the remaining 99%. That's scandalous, and it seems to be the pattern, accumulating money for the sake of it.
For the rest of us though, money needn't be the be-all-and-end-all that it appears to be (particularly if you're comparing yourself a lot to Internet people!) Some of my best memories have involved things that didn't cost a penny and didn't really involve technology. I used to earn a pretty decent living before I took the bold step of quitting it all, I'd buy designer clothes, clothes from the high street, shoes, handbags and cosmetics, but it didn't make me feel any happier - it just made me question what I'd had to sacrifice to get these things, mostly my own time.
That's not to say you can't or shouldn't have fun with money, it just means we should all evaluate the role that money plays in our lives, and whether we control it, or if it controls us.
In my opinion, life is all about experiences. It's about the things you do, the people you meet, the friends you make, the places you go and the fun you have. I'm certain that technology and money are both enablers to experiences, I mean I booked all of my travels on the Internet after searching around for the best places to go to, what each place has to offer and how to get the best deal. Oh, and money paid for it all too.
It is all to easy to allow technology to overshadow our experiences though - from everyday examples such as taking photos of your food for instagram before you eat it, to putting on makeup for the benefit of your blog, to the less everyday of missing out on the true atmosphere of a foreign city because you're checking your twitter feed as you walk around. I guess it's all about striking a balance, you want to have mementos to remind you of the great experiences you had, but you don't want to spend all of your time documenting them, because then you'll be living life in the third person. You'll look back at the photos or twitter feeds or tumblr posts and think: "Was that really me?" And I don't think that's a good thing.
I remember as a kid there were riots in my home town, between the Indian and Pakistani communities, I'm not sure exactly why, but I was only around 7 or 8, and I used to love going out to play, I had a really vivid imagination, the adventurer's spirit, so being indoors felt like I was being shackled. During the riots I escaped from the house and went to the park to play, despite the sirens wailing amid the backdrop of violence!
It truly is those random experiences that one cannot plan or predict that really make our lives interesting, unique and exciting - from having a race with a friend and tripping over a flower (only me) through spontaneously walking in to an Art gallery in passing and accidentally bumping in to your future partner, to meeting a lifelong friend for the first, and the last, time, to seeing the sunset in a foreign land and chatting with strangers about nothing in particular.
To conclude, Technology and Money can be great, if a balance can be struck between them and life. If you are using them to actually make your everyday life better, to get out there and do amazing things then great, they are serving you. If however you find the balance tips towards you serving them, life will not be quite so great. You could end up being the person that lives on their phone, tablet or laptop constantly tweeting, instagramming, whatsapping or typing away. Don't let yourself be that person, continuously evaluate life, live for the moment, avoid putting up content for the benefit of others as you'll be building an unsustainable Internet Persona and above all, because you don't want your technology to take you away from life.
And in case you're wondering what the hell I'm on about, here's the video: