Cell Phones. Internet. GPS. 900 Television channels and 24 hour news shows. Facebook, Instagram and twitter. We are inundated with noise, information, and visibility into everything we do. Nothing happens anywhere in the world where we don’t instantly have the latest news being blared at us from so many talking heads and pundits. We’re told what we should wear, how we should look, what we should eat, even how many times we should be going to the rest room. Not only are we told how to have sex, but there are 1,000’s of porn sites to show us how it’s done in hideously graphic detail. We are expected to have the latest and greatest technology. The iPhone 5 is out? Well, that $600.00 IPhone 4 you just bought 8 months ago is so passé now. How embarrassing to be seen with one.
George Orwell would be flabbergasted.
Like so many of us, I had to study ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ in high school. It was published by George Orwell in 1949 and portrayed a world dominated by ‘Big Brother’, this quasi-divine and perhaps mythical Party leader of English Socialism. This was a world of constant surveillance, where even private thoughts that didn’t completely follow party lines were a crime. When I was in high school, 1984 was still in the future, and it seemed farfetched, almost silly to think that a two-way ‘Telescreen’ could actually see into our homes, watching our every move for some betraying thought or action. It seemed ridiculous that the masses could be fed such obvious propaganda and swallow it whole.
And yet, here we are – and then some.
The technology boom of the last 50 years boggles the mind. Cell phones were the stuff of science fiction; Dick Tracey two-way wrist watches or Maxwell Smart shoes. I remember reading about a pill that, taken once a day fulfilled all nutritional needs eliminating the need to waste time actually preparing and eating meals. Of course, now in only 3 minutes I can have a ‘Healthy Choice’ frozen dinner, eaten straight out of the packaging. I can go from hungry to cleaning up the dinner fork in 5 minutes or less. Yes, I said dinner fork. No dirty pans to be washed, no kitchen to be cleaned. Air Conditioning was only for the wealthy, and not even considered to be installed in a car. Cable TV? We didn’t even have a color TV until I was in my teens. And when Cable did come out nobody believed it would ever catch on. Why on earth would you pay for TV when there were three perfectly good channels you could get for free? Two good channels anyway. The third one would only come in when the wind was blowing just right, or you were lucky enough to have the rabbit ears (complete with aluminum foil) placed just right. There were no FM radio stations, except for one classical station that could sometimes be picked up. And the atom bomb was still new enough that we had air raid drills the first Wednesday of the month, when the sirens would go off at noon, we’d assume the position under our school desks and sit terrified for 6 or 7 minutes until the ‘all clear’ signal was heard. The cold war was real, and atomic annihilation was not only a possibility, but a probability. The Doomsday clock was under 5 minutes. (Look it up kids).
Yet technology continued to develop, and we embraced it.
I have to wonder though, is this advancement of electronics really such a good thing? There is practically no need for imagination anymore. Kids have video games, that keep them indoors and sedentary. It’s no wonder obesity is becoming such a problem with our youth. (And adults too…) As a kid we were always outside, hiking through the woods, riding our bikes everywhere, creating our own fun. Today’s kids are glued to the TV, which has now become bigger than life. I think the proliferation and easy availability of porn has contributed to an increase of bisexuality and alternate lifestyles. Sex is so in your face now. Men who used to never see other men naked, now can watch other men in all kinds of sexual acts. The same is true for women. True, there has always been bisexuality, but I think it’s happening more than ever. Our expectation of sexuality has changed too. It’s no longer enough to have simple loving making; now it has to be adventurous and kinky. We want it to be just like we’re watching on the internet and television. Facebook and other social media allow us to connect with others and give all kinds of opportunities do develop virtual relationships; virtual relationships that all too often become real.
Connections; we have become way too connected.
I have found myself becoming very anxious whenever I can’t get in touch with someone. I text a lot, and have come to expect an instant reply. And if that doesn’t happen I get stressed out; worrying about all kinds of problems. Is there something wrong? Are they in trouble? Have they just lost interest in chatting? That’s especially true with my girlfriend. I want to be able to get in touch with her at any time, and when I don’t it almost pisses me off. Where the hell is she, and what is she doing? And who is she doing it with?
And that’s not right.
As someone who is bipolar, I think that these advancements just make it harder with my mood swings. Sure, there’s always been the feeling isolation when I was alone. But being cut off from such a connected world makes it worse. Nobody is texting me. I’m not getting called on my cell phone. I don’t even have to leave my house to see how much fun the rest of the world is having (real or not) and during a manic episode it’s way too easy to share that mood with others. I can text anyone at any time, email manifestos to everyone I know, and expose my illness to the world through social media.
And I’ve done that, and more.
There is definitely goodness to the changes we’ve seen. We have access to more information than ever before. We can research anything we’re interested in day or night. I’m surprised that libraries are even still around, and wonder how much longer they will be. There’s not much need for them with Kindle’s and iPad. And who goes to the library for research anymore. That is only done by a few diehards that enjoy the feel of real books. Newspapers are also a thing of the past. By the time a paper can be printed, it’s old news. We’ve already seen in on CNN.
It’s been 30 years since 1984, and 65 years since the book was published. Today’s generation cannot fathom how frightening and unreal the world invented by Orwell. It might not be the totalitarian control of the evil government or the horrors of ‘Room 101’. But we do live a life so exposed, so public, and so monitored that you can almost believe that it is. I can’t recall who it’s credited to (Google, here I come!) but I remember the quote “When man interacts more with machines than each other, society is doomed.” It really makes me wonder the world in thirty years from now.
And it scares the hell out of me.