‘Progress is a Beautiful Thing’

This slogan was used to promote the iPhone 5s in 2013. ‘Progress’ when used in this sense is characterised by social laziness, ignorance and desire. Everywhere we look the relentless red flashing light confronts us. Laptops, computers, iPhones, smart phones, remote controls – charge your device or be ‘disconnected’ for a matter of seconds until you ‘plug in’ again; our lives are being transformed by devices that at one point would not have seemed out of place in a science fiction story.

Today the ‘technosphere’ is the only state of being we seem to feel comfortable in. We have access to information instantly at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen, yet when one is confronted with the ‘buffering circle’ (to reference Kevin Bacon), we seem to think the world is ending and that technology is failing us. Our human ability to be patient appears to have been lost and tested in a new way. In an increasingly networked world, escape is impossible. No matter what position you seek to occupy, that position will be located somewhere on a network’s grid.

Ennui and laziness have become two ultimate states of being in modern society. We feel compelled to fill every minute of silence and conversation with relentless scrolling, jabbing, posting, texting. Many seek to have the latest product on the market, yet within a few years, become bored with one device, and seek to replace it for another, because society tells us it is the norm to ‘stay updated’.  A recent article in The People’s Friend commented that 82% of teenagers never use a doorbell. Instead, they text their friends saying they are at the door. If people understood the rudeness of preferring your electronic device the physical presence of friends, and recognised how pitiful looks to see a group of people not interacting but having a conversation via satellite, we would treat the social convention of owning a smart phone with much more scepticism. If we remain perpetually glued to the glowing screen, we may risk missing life’s most subtle moments of happiness.

The word ‘connect’ has become obscene; in short, if you are not connected, you are fucked. One of the big issues of today, we are told, is how to get everybody connected.  Every connection has its price; the one thing we can be sure of is that, eventually, we will have to pay money to one of those big telecommunication giants to guarantee your ‘democratic right’ to be connected. Technology has proven to be one of the most useful phenomenons since sliced bread, but entitlement seems to override human engagement. Town technology is to be socially accepted; to be part of the techno-age and be connected to the world, you certainly have to own, or have contact with a ‘smart device’. Is there any going back? Probably not. No one can opt out of the network entirely, but at the very least, we can try to be a little less connected.

Is this state of ‘progress’ really such a beautiful thing?

By Callum Hyde

[Image credit: gordon mei]

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