Positive Cynicism – Consider the loneliness of modern technology

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Today I read a story about venture capitalist Hunter Walk. He seems to feel there is a market for his idea that movie theaters should turn up the lights, turn on the wifi and encourage multitasking during the show.

I think it shows the incredible, selfish delusion of what’s going on in the tech sector right now.

Here’s what I don’t understand about the modern world: how fucking busy are we, really?

Judging by every piece of modern technology, we have a lot of stuff to do. We have to network, look up information, get in a few tweets, maybe throw up a blog post, play some online games, stream something to watch, look up what song we’re hearing, and peruse some news articles AND WE HAVE TO DO IT ALL AT THE SAME TIME! That’s why everything has to be portable: we have to upload everything to every social network and constantly document that fascinating tuna melt we had for lunch and give our oh-so-insightful comments about what we’re seeing, doing, thinking, feeling at every given moment because we are just so interested in the most superficial aspects of ourselves, so why wouldn’t everyone else be, too? We can’t stop and slow down for a goddamn moment, because we have to somehow remember to work and feed ourselves in the midst of all of this scrolling, interacting, photographing and streaming we do while trying to get to the next damn level of Candy Crush Saga.

Wow, modern life sounds exhausting.

Too bad 95 percent of it is totally purposeless.

This is what I think of when I read Hunter Walk’s complaint/daydream about how movie theaters should encourage socialization — or, more accurately, the social networking of ourselves and an echo chamber that we like to pretend is all the benefit of socialization without actually being asked to physically do something for another person.

In all the constant noise and interactivity and avoiding of actual other human beings, Walk ponders that he doesn’t like the moviegoing experience because “Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast list online, tweet out a comment, talk to others while watching or just work on something else while Superman played in the background.”

In other words, he wants the outside world to be more like his living room.

Isn’t that just kind of … sad and lonely?

Maybe it just comes down to experience. See, I don’t actually go out to the movies very often anymore. Not only because of the cost (poor, unemployed) or the hassle (anxiety disorders, crowds make me nervous), but because there’s currently precious little to enjoy about movies. Even the good ones are overlong, tedious and often bleak to the point of nihilism. A movie has to seem like an event for me to plan to spend the money and get up and deal with the hassle. Otherwise, I don’t mind just watching it at home with my wife. I prefer that experience. And when I’m at home, I can multitask however I want if the movie isn’t holding my attention.

But when I’m going to the expense and special effort to go out and be in a movie theater, that’s an escape. That’s an immersion in fantasy. I don’t really understand what the appeal is in diminishing that experience by playing on an iPad and tweeting and talking to people and just generally fucking around. Why the hell would I pay money to go to another place and take my entire living room lifestyle with me? What would be the point of that? You can’t sit through a couple hours of a movie without having to run to your smartphone and just feed yourself useless factoids or fire off a smartass quip on Facebook?

What is the value in this?

When I see two people eating at the same table separated by the wall of their mutual lack of interest in the person in front of them, both checking their own phones, I start to wonder if human contact is just beside the point now. We have so many apps and games and emails taking up our time, and it’s not like we’re all doing something so damn important that we need to be plugged in at every second of every day. Life won’t end if you find out the name of the royal baby after your friends do. No one cares because no one’s keeping score except for you.

If you can’t just sit still and enjoy a movie … if you can’t be alone with your own thoughts for just a second without looking through your Netflix queue or refreshing Twitter over and over … well, I just kind of feel sorry for you.

What are you afraid is going to stop happening if you stop fidgeting and consuming trivial news stories about nothing?

To his credit, Walk was talking about segregating people who want that experience away from the people with attention spans. But it still just made me feel bad for him. He seriously thinks it’s a great idea to pay money to be in your living room, in a self-made wireless cocoon, constantly distracting yourself from the pointlessness of existence … but in public. Deluding yourself that you’re sharing a communal experience.

Sorry, but I can be lonely and self-absorbed at home, without spending the money or making a special trip to a fool’s paradise.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

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