Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The pathetic state of my mediated life

My first morning back in the States, I decided to head to the church I used to go to in high school. Which, by the way, made me surprisingly depressed when I realized that it'd been almost 10 years since I last went; I'm getting old.

On my way out, I noticed that my phone's battery had died from looking for China Mobile service all night, so I plugged it in and left it. Also, I had left M with our US debit card, so all I had on me was a wallet slightly full of RMB, a water bottle, my Bible and my dad's keys.

I really enjoyed the service, but after church let out, I walked the new sprawling suburban megachurch campus feeling strangely alone. I did get a chance to look up my old pastor, who's still there. But perhaps because of my Chinese perm (see last post) he didn't recognize me at first.

After church, I got back in the car and started heading home until I realized that my parents were at their own church service so no one would be home for 3 hours, I had no phone, and to make things worse, I couldn't really think of anyone I knew in a 30 mile radius who would want to hang out with me just then anyway. I thought about grabbing lunch but I was (uncharacteristically) not hungry, so I decided to catch a movie at a nearby theater.

I bought a ticket for a movie showing in half hour, bought some snacks and then realized I didn't know what to do with myself while I waited. I asked the ticket-taker if I could go in the theater and she told me to wait until they finished cleaning. Several minutes later, I was alone in the theater.

Instinctively, I reached for my non-existent iPhone as a diversion. I was so desperate, I even looked for my Bible (:P), but I'd left it in the car. And then a gripping fear set in: I had to wait half an hour with nothing to keep me interested. Which is kind of funny because the movie itself was just a way to kill time anyway.

One of my friends once told me that my enneagram type has a basic fear of being bored. Given how spastic I am, I wasn't that surprised, and Sunday only served to further confirm the fact.

Here's the thing, though: I know I'm not alone in this. Frankly, we're a generation of bored-ophobes. Media has come to rule, and even worse to actually mediate, our lives. We've got TVs on the subways and buses, smartphones with apps and perpetual connectivity, the ubiquitous book, magazine, newspaper, or snack in our bags.

I'm not trying to be a Luddite here, just kind of verbally processing how dangerous it is that we're addicted to media, that we demand constant entertainment and are all too often appeased in those demands.

When we're completely honest, we're running from ourselves, medicating our pain and escaping from reality. These days, unfiltered reality isn't good enough for us and we have to augment it. There's all this talk about 3D being the next big frontier, but I think sometimes we forget that real friggin' life is already in 3D. Technically, aren't we in like 4D?

This ish has become so pervasive that my parents have 4G Android smartphones and while their downtime away with their unlimited data plans. Let that sink in a bit. I'm hella proud of my parents for riding this new wave of technology, but I never thought I'd see my dad streaming YouTube videos on a smartphone on the massage chair he bought off Craigslist. That's just straight up Twilight Zone.

And if you haven't realized it already, I'm the biggest hypocrite here. I started this blog post while Gchatting with M about it and watching my brother rehearse his wedding dance using Xbox Kinect and Dance Central.

When I realized I was bored in that movie theater and how foreign and frightening that experience felt for me, my first response was to tweet it. Haha. And that's how I knew I was really bored. Because I couldn't even tweet how bored I was.

So while this is a post about how sad it is to be bored, it's more a post about how sad it is how sad it is to be bored. I'm not saying the solution is to get rid of technology, Lord knows I rely on the mass production and consumption of media and content for a living.

But it's probably about time we got back to some of the ancient disciplines of silence and solitude followed by a dose of old-fashioned human to human interaction.


Tawny said...

I really liked this post. Wasn't at all bored when I read it, either! :-)

Greg said...

I tried to come up with a pithy comment about technology, but instead got distracted and took the Enneagram Test. I'm a Type 2.

Oh, here is something applicable-- part of what I best liked about being overseas for so long was that I had no phone service. No one could chat me or text me, and I didn't know if I had email until I checked on my compie. Those things begin to rule your life, and now that I am back it's always beeping and blurping and drawing my attention away from whatever else I'm doing.

J.Dou said...

Yeah good point about the phone thing, Greg. It was nice this week not having to worry about people trying to get in touch with me. Surprisingly, I didn't really miss having one all that much. Although, the GPS function on my family's phones did come in handy at times.