Three hundred hours of video are upload to YouTube every minute, and 317,000 status updates are posted on Facebook. Netflix users spent one hundred and forty million hours a day watching content. Hulu and other streaming services are growing. Social media platforms are expanding. We’re all looking at the screens, all captivated by images and posts and tweets and pictures of baby animals. Time becomes meaningless. Planned minutes on the TV or computer or phone become hours. We never look up. We rarely look away. What then, are we missing? What don’t we see?
I love the movie Wall-E. In it, the robot Wall-E leaves earth to follow his robot love and intercepts a spaceship that houses the last of the human survivors. The survivors drift about space, waiting for the day when the Earth becomes habitable again following an environmental collapse the robots are trying to clean up. In the interim, humans wait and cruise. And “cruise” is the operative word. No one walks. They float about in chairs, constantly viewing things on screen, and everything they need to survive is delivered to them. Walking is so yesterday. They need not think or plan or worry about politics or contemplate the meaning of life. They are, after all, entertained.
As we are. There is entertainment available from a myriad of sources and it never stops. Even news is entertainment. How does that quote go: “news is what they don’t want you to know, everything else is advertising.” And we’re all about consuming the advertising. We don’t even realize that’s what most of the content is. We pay less and less attention to real stuff, important stuff, good life stuff. We like posts and bicker about political positions and lament the state of the planet, all while believing that screaming into the void is in some way effective. That being an online voice is equivalent to taking actual action.
We are becoming a society of escapism artists.
I’m starting to wonder about it, who’s behind it all? Why are we all being encouraged into passivity? The thoughts make me feel a bit like a conspiracy theorist; still, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
We are confusing online interactions with making real-life contributions. We are becoming small and insular. We pay less and less attention to the growing divide between the top percenters and the everyone else. Power is being concentrated but we’re too busy sharing funny memes and ordering soap online to notice. No one has to worry about the increasing number of poor and indigent when the latest filter is available as a distraction.
We are becoming absent. Everything is unreal, online, and virtual. We are becoming housebound. Who need to leave, after all? Take the virtual commute to work, interact with virtual friends, and take part in virtual movements. Who needs other people? Who needs a life? It’s easier to watch famous people enjoying theirs as we order groceries online to avoid the horror of actually attending to something in person and possibly being forced to interact.
I don’t know that this is a good direction to take. Technology is out-pacing our learning and philosophy. I don’t know if it can be changed; I know you can’t unring a bell. I do know that living a pretend life, and that’s what these onscreen lives are, is a bad thing; it will not move the species in a positive direction. We are not getting better; we are not evolving. We’re playing Candy Crush and live-streaming and buying things off Marketplace instead.