How do you start your day? Cup of coffee, mug of tea? Do you immediately get up and do a hundred sit-ups? Possible. More likely, you grab your phone and check for updates. A text, a tweet or a Facebook message/post/like are what fills our day between going to work, walking around or even while we do something else. If you haven’t got something to do, you check your phone. But is that ok? Do we want that to be the norm?
I love social media. I use twitter, I’m subscribed to more YouTubers than I can keep up with, and I used to watch every US show I could find online. Then I realised that it was taking over more of my time than things I really needed to do.
For various reasons, and with a couple of simple techniques, I am being strict with myself. I took a step back from technology and social media and found that I, or more, we, have forgotten what it was like before the world was on and changing 24 hours a day.
As with anything that needs to change, we have to be proactive. The change I want to see is people taking time for their lives offline, so here’s a few things I think we’re letting slip away:
While I’m definitely an advocate for digital comics and apps for magazines, which let’s face it are getting bigger and more cumbersome to carry, I still feel strongly about paper copies. You can argue that deforestation requires us to use less paper, and that’s fair, but children are going to grow up never experiencing browsing a bookshop, walking around, looking at covers, sitting and reading the first pages to see if you’re hooked. Are we going to live in a world where your Dad tweets you the link to a digital copy of the book he’s bought for your birthday from your Amazon wish list? Sure you get exactly what you asked for, but does that show he knows you?
I love to read, and every year when I was growing up I asked for books or book vouchers for my birthday and for Christmas. Often, especially from my grandparents, they’d take me to the bookshop and I’d choose one, then they’d take it away and write inside the cover, “For Nicholas, Happy Tenth Birthday” and sign etc. I still cherish those books. When you go to a second hand bookshop, a big part of owning a book is seeing if someone inscribed it for the previous owner. It means more that way.
2. Music and Walks
I’m as guilty as anyone of being part of the iPod generation. When I walk to work or am just wandering around, out of habit I listen to music. It puts me in a good mood to listen to something uplifting, so I’m cheery when I get to my destination. Recently I’ve realised how much it closes you off from the world. The music takes over and you can forget to look around and listen to what’s going on. There are buskers, some good, some bad, people laughing, people arguing, birds…well, squawking usually, all around. That’s nature. That’s the real physical world. We don’t walk around and just be part of the world and see what it has to offer. Maybe we find it easy to forget about the deforestation and species dying out because we spend so much time ignoring that it’s out there, never seeing what might one day not be.
Movies are great. Going to see a movie is an experience, one that’s getting more and more expensive. Movies started out as escapism, and as a way to show the news. It’s still escapism but it’s glossy and carefully presented and can show anything the imagination desires because of the clever technology we’ve invented. But the theatre is flawed, polished and practised, but prone to human error. It’s a whole different experience when you can see the people, playing characters, right in front of you. They might forget lines, the audience might get to interact (see The Rocky Horror Picture Show) or an actor’s final performance might be full of more emotion than anyone can act.
Ironically, I saw a YouTube clip someone had recorded of Idina Menzel’s final performance in Wicked, a role she originated opposite Kristen Chenoweth. In her final songs, her voice broke and they were both in tears. They’d worked together for so long and so closely that having their time together ending made that show all the more powerful. Imagine seeing that kind of emotion? You won’t get that at the cinema.
We take for granted the experiences that we had growing up that might not exist for future generations, or at least not for all of them, because there will be a new media techno-link, something that means it’s instantly accessible and instantly discarded. If we don’t support these little book shops, they will go out of business and their existence will only be in text books, text books that someone will read on a tablet no doubt.
If nothing else, let’s support these things while we can.