by Laura Otieno
Knowing that you can read this article from any device, at anytime, anywhere makes me so happy. That the freedom of media consumption has revolutionized to the finest detail is a thrill. Technology is amazing.
Let us travel back in time so we see just how far we’ve come before going back to not caring at all for probably the rest of our lives.
In 1837, the Telegraph was the most sophisticated technology there was. Sending a message to someone across the Atlantic took hours. The fastest time recorded in human history. Letters took months. It could take you a couple months to say “Hi!” and get a “Hello!” back. And for those who could afford Telegraph, a few hours but with the discomfort of restricted wording because you were charged to the letter, literally.
..You can get in to an argument with people you have never met because of Twitter’s Trends…
Fast forward to now, try explaining to octogenarians who would care to listen that you can talk to someone in Heathrow, in real time, from the comfort of your bed somewhere in Bondo, and you can actually see their faces because Skype. Try to brazen out their ancient wisdom by telling them you can get in to an argument with people you have never met because of Twitter’s #trends. Most would rather not engage because that would probably sound like modern day sorcery. Same way all these rapid advances will totally blow our minds off say forty years from today.
That is how far we have come.
But in this process, humanity has been absorbed so much that we literally value our virtual existence to the real existence. I mean, it would sound abhorrent if I told you something that was totally normal five years ago, calling my most tech-savvy friends to go window shopping for a phone. Right now, my most tech-savvy friends will marvel at my obstinate grit to live under a rock. There’re hordes of online shops that could offer me the same experience, of admiring a phone, look at its specs plus the bonus of reading multiple reviews of it before paying and having it delivered to wherever I choose. Great stuff!
I miss the long walks we would take with my friends around the hood
On the flip side, this shopping spree is at the expense of a lot more other things. I will spend a lot of time in my room or even sat with my whole family, each busy doing something on their phone, as our cat watches NatGeo from a corner on the couch. Occasionally, I’d engage the family because in the process of shopping, I might stumble on a review that reroutes me to Facebook and then I will suddenly feel like I need to go live for a couple minutes so we all do the video and then retreat to our ‘bubbles’ and look at another 8 videos. One thing leads to another and three hours in to what should have been a phone shopping spree, I’m in the middle of a YouTube video on how to talk to a giraffe, so I find my way back to my shopping site. Split attention.
The fun of going through a string of shops looking for clothes has been milked by the convenience of all these online retailers, which I can access anywhere anytime.
Before going to the hospital, or even before running to my mom to complain of a terrible headache, I’d rather Google my symptoms first and then ‘approach the bench’ with a detailed report of a wide array of possible diagnostics. We are the information age.
Do not get me wrong, I am not in any way de-preaching this era we are living in. Times have changed. Take that from a 90’s kid (we were lucky to have experienced both worlds where we would play ‘kati’ all morning and play Nintendo in the afternoon). However, I miss the long walks we would take with my friends around the hood, the effort of knowing landmarks without using Google maps, the adventure of walking through 8 stores and fitting clothes in every one of them and deciding to go buy from the third store after a hard bargain with the seller.
The anticipated waits for cartoon time instead of a YouTube channel or a switch to Cartoon Network; in my heyday, we had to wait. It was fun, I miss it and I appreciate the strides technology has made thus far. The flooding of my news feed with Breaking News from around the world, the convenience of choosing what I want to devour and from what outlets, the freedom of consuming media anyhow and anytime I like, the ease of accessing a ton of information in 2 hours that took the national library a whole lot of time to put together. I would not have it any other way; I would not choose a different point in time to exist other than now.
My argument is, perhaps it is time we looked at the downside of these things we are so quick to embrace. We have basically lost touch of interaction the way it used to be and talking to my 5 year old cousin about bruises from falls off a swing because of some unfaithful piece of rope suspended from an avocado tree with a piece of wood to sit on is farfetched because he would rather play Xbox or Fifa or candy crush, I don’t know what these kids play.
But there is still hope for us, I remember when Google wanted to make us glasses that double up as computers and the idea didn’t go well with so many people. That is the horizon, that there is still an iota of sanity in this ‘virtual obsessed’ world makes me want to dance in the rain. All is not lost. Many people would grin if you told them that a tool they believe to be their servant, is actually their master. We have become so obsessed with the virtual world that we forget that happiness can also be found from off that screen you are glued on, consciously and sometimes subconsciously, for hours on end (Topic for another day).
Don’t get me wrong, I would not choose a different point in time to exist other than now.
I do not know the exact things we need to do, but if we don’t act fast, this rad looking situation is going to consume us and put us in a black hole where physical human interaction is considered cumbersome and time consuming and not fun, kind of how we look at queuing at the bank for withdrawals.
Let us take a step back, synthesize all this and then draft a way forward because either way we still need the internet, we just have to find a way to tame it before it turns us in to virtual savages.
Laura Otieno is a Media Science Student. She loves Broadcast Journalism and has a keen interest on stories that directly affect human dignity.