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Losing The Buzz

15 March, 2015 0 Comments

There’s a regular buzz against my thigh from the phone in my trouser pocket. Maybe it’s a text or maybe or a tweet or perhaps I’ve got a message on Skype. It’s hard not to check them all. Sometimes it’ worth fishing the phone out to check but mostly it isn’t. Sometimes there’s nothing there – no text, no tweet, no message. And sometimes there’s a buzz against my thigh and my phone isn’t even in my pocket. It’s like the ants that I spot but which aren’t when we have a summer of ant invasions. They’re the same as the real ants except that when I look more closely, they simply aren’t there. It’s just that my brain has become so obsessed with spotting ants that it jumps the gun at every crumb or speck of dirt. And now my brain is detecting buzzes against my thigh are simply phantoms, like an amputee feeling pain in a missing limb.

After a period of driving with my SatNav I find I continue to check the empty space in the centre of the dashboard where the SatNav even after I have stowed it away in the glove compartment. My brain has become used to this additional source of information and is still seeking it out even when it’s not there.

I can’t remember the name of the first video game that I played obsessively but it was something very similar to space invaders. An armada of alien ships descending from above. They had to be zapped fast before they blasted away my three lives or reached the earth. At night, the aliens descended still, in a never ending stream, blasting away at my attempts to get to sleep. Tracking screen aliens had let them into my head and my drowsing brain wouldn’t let them out again.

I’m not troubled by aliens these days but that reverse screen burn still eats into my head. Checking for the last email, tweet, news update before going to sleep has proved just as disturbing as the aliens. Sometimes I’ll be checking again if awake in the night. Inevitably I reach out for my phone first thing in the morning.

There’s a dark side to digital. It sucks at the soul like Faust’s devil. So much is offered, so much is given. But there’s always a price, there’s a price for everything. Maybe we are all beginning to understand this now, but it’s an industry that makes such riches and provides such wondrous tools that nobody is keen to examine the dark side too closely. Like not thinking hard about the environmental and human costs of assembling our devices, we don’t want to consider too carefully what digital tech could be doing to us mentally and socially.

I now leave my phone downstairs to charge overnight. It’s a wrench, but only by putting it well beyond reach can I make it let go of me. I’ve begun to think about the possibility of moving to something a little less smart. I really don’t know if I can do that, whether I can really lose the buzz. And what about the Apple Watch? That scares me indeed.

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