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Does Tech Damper Our Experiences?

On Thursday, my first day as a San Diegoan, two crazy things happened: We had near record-breaking heat and the whole city went dark for 12 hours. From 3:35 pm on, the afternoon and early evening were muggy and quiet, as if the whole city, and the million or so others in Southern California, western Arizona, and Tijuana, held their collective breath waiting for the air conditioning to kick back on. By dusk, everyone seemed to take to the street, restless with energy as the heat lifted off the metropolis, peeping above their grumbling stomachs into restaurants to see if they were open, and jumping into any dive bar that served warm whiskey. For me, Thursday night was spent with friends lighting candles, eating spoiling food out of the fridge, and drinking bottles of wine. All were necessary for nourishment.

And no less than ten times that night I wanted to tweet about it.

But we couldn’t read, because our iPad battery power was on its last leg and the candlelight was too dim for traditional books. We could not get the latest news, because the Internet was gone and tomorrow’s newspaper had not yet been printed. And we couldn’t Tweet, Facebook, or blog, because the Wi-Fi was down and cell phones towers were either dead or busy.

Instead, we lit gas stoves with lighters, talked to our neighbors, and looked at our surroundings with new, limited eyes.

We saw one family, a couple with a little boy and girl in tow, heading to its car in the dark of night. When we saw it later on, we heard the parents using the light of the car to read the kids a bedtime story.

Yeah, sure, we have the “put the tech away and get back to humanity” stuff, which I definitely felt on Thursday night/Friday morning. What really hit me, though, was how dependent I’ve become on technology – not even the GPS and the cell phone and other practical stuff, but on my experiences.

For instance, whether it is me getting drunk in Iceland for the first time or telling people that I’ve moved to a new town, I’m always documenting my life on Twitter as I live it. Did I have a blast drinking Black Death in Rekjavik? Definitely. Would I have been more present if I wasn’t tweeting? Perhaps. For me, sometimes it ends up being a cat-and-mouse game between me enjoying what I’m doing and me watching myself enjoy what I’m doing – often, ironically, so I can relive it (or other people can live it through me) later.

I guess I’m super reflective on meta experiences right now. I wonder how my life-altering run with Hurricane Katrina six years ago or people’s experience with 9/11 a decade ago would have been different with Facebook and Twitter in full swing.

I wonder if they would have mattered more or less to those watching and, more importantly, to those of us who were in them.

Photo courtesy of chris.ptacek // CC 2.0

 


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Damon Brown

Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...


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