The Rent crew asks it’s audience, “How do you measure, measure a year?” Love, is the answer they offer. In today’s world it seems the main offering is the amount of time you spend attached to media-saturated technology. Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post wrote an article regarding this deeply disturbing concept.
Let’s do the math. Higgins’ article cites that Americans, at least, are getting a technological dosing of about 8.5 hours a day. That’s 510 minutes per day, which makes that 186, 150 minutes per year. Maintaining an 8.5 hour tech-savvy work day, you spend roughly 35% of your year texting, surfing, blogging, chatting, uploading, downloading, liking, tweeting, status updating…it is just too technologic.
Could it be called a counter-cultural movement? On the one side, the technology culture is the mainstream culture. On the other side, the technology culture completely disconnects us from other cultures in the world, maybe even in our own homes. A famous example of counter culture is of course the 1960s Psychedellic movement. Yes, I’m comparing Twitter to LSD. Timothy Leary, mega-famous proponent of the LSD movement had a famous tagline: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out. LSD, as many hip writers attest to (read Hippies and the American Value by Henry Miller), served to disconnect people from the grueling machine that was American Reality and allow opportunity for self-exploration and experience. How is Twitter, Facebook or the entire online, technological Realm any different?
Start with a basic word-for-word break down.
Turn On. We boot up, launch internet browsers. We turn on cell phones, ipods. True, the meaning of “turn on” in the 1960s did not necessarily mean the same thing but is it not similar. To the hippies, “turn on” meant engaging something into action, usually within yourself, but with some sort of assistance. We have a severe self-expressionary addiction to vehicles like Twitter. Maybe Twitter doesn’t bring us trippy visions or religious experiences, but it fosters self-awareness on a certain level.
Tune In. Just because you aren’t tuning into the radio or the television doesn’t mean there isn’t some media conglomerate tuning into your brain. An average American sees between 200-3000+ advertisements per day. That doesn’t mean commercials or billboards. Texting on your blackberry? Advertisement right there. The word “blackberry” is somewhere within your view. Logos are an essential part of advertising, they are like commercial leeches- you don’t have to acknowledge them but they are there having grave effect on you. Or, think of tune in like this: Lately I have seen, and oh how this worries me, people driving with earphones. Maybe they don’t have radios. Maybe they don’t have CD players. But they certainly seem to have afforded, throug purchase or gift, an ipod or some sort of MP3 player. But driving with earphones? Texting-while-driving accidents have risen statistically over the past ten years. Will Jamming-while-driving be the next trend in auto accidents? Everywhere you go, I guarantee, on a college campus especially, you can find at least one person in your day wit earphones in. Try finding someone with a Bluetooth headset accessory. We are constantly tuned in, whether we think we have turned on or not. The most striking problem is that we think it all comes from freedom of choice. I choose to have Facebook or Twitter, I choose my status. I choose to buy an ipod, I choose the music I listen to. Customization of the personality in the 21st Century is corporately sponsored. We figure out who we are through status updates and playlists. And color changing-technicolor vision isn’t even one of the benefits.
Drop Out. In his recent prime time stand up, Weapons of Self-Destruction, Robin Williams gives a quip on his concern and criticism for his kids or constantly plugged into something and not ever really there, in reality, spending time with him. Forget those 80s Sci Fi movies about Virtual Reality taking over (I’m rather fond of Tron), because it truly has. Reality has a separate existence on the many screens we encounter each day- pocket size or desktop size. And what happens when we turn on and tune in? Well, we drop out. I know at least a hundred people that would attest to the statement that they “spend too much time on facebook”. Do we not find concern with the fact that “vacation” meant leaving your laptop at home, but now it probably needs to mean cell phones and itouches? Postmodern Theorist Walter Benjamin argued that the world we see reproduced through the mechanical lens is not an accurate representation. We are learning to see a world through screens- computer screens, cell phone screens, tv screens- and it is becoming our only representation of the outside world. We may think we are utilizing ways to drop out of the American Reality, whatever horrifyingly unnerving things it may bring us to feel, but the truth is the American Reality is utilizing us to drop out. That’s my conspiracy theory, at leas.t But, the comparison is still simple. Hippies used LSD to essentially avoid some form of reality. 21st Century Americans are doing the same thing.
American’s average life expectancy is 78 years . That’s 40,996,800 minutes. If 186,150 minutes per year makes up 35% of our yearly time, 14,519,700 minutes per life time makes up 35% of our lives.
What could you be doing with ten percent more of your time?
Well, how about love?