Having spent two days this week in Hong Kong’s Disneyland, what really struck me was the way in which people were all using their devices. There we were sitting on Cinderella’s Carousel in Fantasyland, going around and around, up and down, and pretty much every adult was holding out a device trying to capture the moment. Really?
It reminded me of a futuristic drama I saw on TV a few years ago of an extreme version of everyone living through their devices, one that didn’t paint a hopeful picture for the human race.
But is it actually a bad thing, I wonder? I have explored this idea of changing social norms before, in so far as technology is assisting. There was an idea in there that the present and the future are born of our past desires. But it’s more accurate to say, I think, something I heard a few years ago “wherever we give our attention to will be our greatest contribution in life.”
Certainly your desires can create your reality, if that is where your attention is. But if your attention is on the lack in your life of what you want, that too creates more of the same in your reality.
That leads me to wonder where the collective attention has been previously focused in order to have created a reality where we have become fairly obsessed with objectifying each moment of our life? And is that even the right way to look at it?
Well, as I was holding up my own device on the carousel, I really took stock of that moment. I wanted to get a picture of my daughter, as I do often, to send to her grandparents. Others I know share photos and videos on other social media platforms. The point is that there is a lot of attempting to capture the moment, and is it happening at the expense of fully giving our attention to the moment?
From my vantage point, I know if I’m taking a picture - and it doesn’t stop there, there is the editing and sharing process – I’m distracted. Distracted from actually being on the carousel and taking in my daughter’s experience, even just listening to her and answering questions. That doesn’t even count the whole process of ‘notifications’ if the picture is shared more widely.
I also take an abundance of pictures in the hope of capturing just one or two of those gorgeous moments of delight spread across the faces of my kids. Or as a record to “help them remember the moment. In reality though, it ends up in thousands of digital records I never really look through, and creates a disruption to them actually really ingesting their own moments which allows them to etch it in their hearts forever.
And what is her experience in all of this? She is there trying to enjoy the moment and I’m constantly trying to call upon her to “smile for the camera”.
There was a ride called something like The Star Wars Experience, it amounted to having your photo taken with (in our case) R2D2. There was no experience, no moment to actually admire this fully recreated robot and interact with it in any way, simply “smile for the camera”. The same was true when we met Mickey et al, although in those instances we happened to be dining and my device wasn’t handy so my eldest daughter got to interact with them, which was much more fun for her.
So we have this strange situation going on where, at any given time if you look around, you are likely to see people with their attention immersed in their device rather than in their present surroundings.
I’m not sure how different that is to life before devices, as the expression “wake up and smell the roses” alludes to, we have been guilty of living in our heads rather than in the moment for much longer than devices have been around. Our heads are where are generally ruminating about the past or planning the future. Maybe our devices are just a more physical signal to the rest of the world that “no one is home” than previously?
Not that either is desirable really. Even as a child I remember walking to the local shops and seeing how many people I could get to look at me and say “morning” or afternoon and that was in Scotland in the 1970’s. People tend to be cocooned in their own little world.
There are more questions than answers here, but what I do know is that it just doesn’t feel right. I want to live in a world where people look each other in the eyes and smile, they connect. I want people to feel connected not just to their own life, but to others around them as well. Not in a way that we can point to the number of contacts on any given platform, or ‘likes’ of a post, but in a way that truly fills our cup.
The kind of world where we can walk down the street and openly greet our neighbours and strangers and actually see each other, and be seen.
Perhaps we have created this very visible situation to help really highlight how far from being present in our own experiences we have drifted? Perhaps our children will balk at having had to break from their experiences in order to “smile for the camera” so much that their desires to fully experience life will be more acute?
Is why we share a matter of connection? Yet in pursuit of that through our devices we become disconnected with the essence of who we are. We are missing the natural world around us, and the opportunities to feel our connectedness with everyone and everything beyond the ‘friends’ we have online.
I want to ingest each moment, and my kids to do the same. For my part, I’m going to take less photos, and be much more mindful of the way in which I use my device from now on. Real life is there for the taking, it’s so much more than a 2 dimensional moment, real life is multidimensional , it smells, it tastes, it sounds, it feels and breathes, it just can’t be captured in a can.
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