Sunday, 13 January 2013

Can you hear me screen?

Scene 1:
 Man and woman walk in to a restaurant. Both seem to have made an effort, especially the woman whose hair is immaculately coiffed, nails finely polished and carved, earrings dangling playfully. Man and woman sit down on a table, candle placed between them,. (One of those candles in a wine bottle type things too- the best kind) The scene is set for a romantic evening of food, wine and interesting conversation.

Scene 2:  
After 30 seconds, man gets out his iphone and spends the entire evening staring at it, scrolling through who knows what, completely ignoring the woman and her nicely coiffed hair.

The end.

So, I'll admit, it won't be an Oscar winner (or nomination, sob); the script is a little thin currently, but this is a real-life epic, based on an episode inspired by a couple who sat at the next table along from me last night. I felt like suggesting to the waiter that the man should be served only virtual food through his iphone screen- he'd probably enjoy it more that way.His iphone screen was an unbeatable opponent to the lady opposite. Perhaps she wasn't what you might call a hoot, I don't know the gal, but nonetheless, please, Mr iphone, enjoy the moment, her presence, or at least the strangely faux spanish atmosphere La Tasca (scene of said incident) has to offer.

I am being too harsh on this poor fellow as I am well aware he is not alone. He is probably just another one of you or I. We are a world of screen enthusiasts, screen addicts, screen drones and sometimes, well it just makes me want to... screeeam. We might stare at beautiful countryside, only through another screen, our camera lens, and never have really seen anything. We sit on trains, surrounded by people we've never met and never will again, whizzing past scenery that'll never look quite the same again, and yet we stare at our screens. The days of awkwardly catching the eye of the person opposite us are rapidly fading folks, because, don't worry, we don't actually need to look at anyone anymore. It's ok, we have our soulless screens for company.

The word 'screen' of course means to protect, to shield.  And, when used in such excess, this indeed seems to be the role of our modern day screens. With protection naturally comes restriction, and we are increasingly losing our ability to just look, freely, at what is in front of us. To screen also means to filter, and I can't help but feel we are filtering out all those tiny details and experiences only the human eye and its awareness can detect, because that constant screeny glow is grabbing all the attention. 

This is a completely one-sided argument, I know, but I hope that's allowable. This isn't a well structured essay but a silly blogpost. I know screens have opened our eyes up to visions we never thought we could possibly see. We can experience two hours of incredible emotional and visual immersion through a film , and witness animals in the sub-sahara desert we'd never catch with our own eyes thanks to them. And I am grateful. I am.  But though screens have enabled us to look at things more than ever, I worry that if we let them dominate quite so much, we will eventually see far less.   


  1. Fair post.

    As the world becomes increasingly technological, it also becomes increasingly solitary.

    A great shame.

  2. Perhaps her appearance left him at a loss for words, and he was simply googling in futile attempt to find them.

    But in any case, I say we rise up and cast the iPhone to floor, anybodies iPhone, everybody's iPhone! Only iPhones mind; I need my noniPhone to avoid random acts of eye contact.

  3. But random awkward eye contact is the best. We all need a bit more of that sort of discomfort in life surely? (Don't worry, your noniPhone is safe though; I've granted it amnesty)

  4. Had this conversation just the other day, regarding multitasking: watching the TV and on using the internet on the phone. Had just read, think it was Stephen Fry, who was saying it's destroying creativity. Art, literature, music are all inspired by just sitting and watching. When people are on the train, bus or just waiting somewhere, they're on the phone instead of people watching or viewing the landscape. It's killing the imagination! We're just straitened for time nowadays so we have to do two things at once...