Click click, distractions are everywhere.
A constant drip feed of pointless information coming to us all day and night long.
We can’t sleep without getting a Facebook update.
We can’t take a train journey without double-checking the train times, even after we've boarded.
The mobile phones which were once a gimmick, something to make meetings and drug deals, now invade our personal space at every turn.
Last year, I briefly returned to the world of dumb-phones. Makes calls, sends texts, plays snake. It was the freest I’ve ever been. Instead of logistics, you have wonder. You wonder what time the next train arrives, and resign yourself to a good book. Not knowing all the answers, whether it's transport times or name that actor, encourages a sense of flexibility and curiosity that we are in danger of losing.
How many arguments are now settled by an amicable 'agree to disagree’, or a change to a fresh topic? Knowledge used to be something to admire. Now it‘s down to who has the quickest fingers to run to Google for useless trivia. The natural flow of a conversation is ruined, by mindless pedants using the internet for their pursuit of being right. A previously throwaway comment becomes a conversational cuI-de-sac, as the group waits politely in stiff silence for the 4G to load up.
As well as our curiosity, the other main victim of mobile technology is flexibility. Now, when we commit to dinner plans, we spend more time researching, google mapping, and reviewing on TripAdvisor than we do eating.
We commit to perfection, obsessively quantifying and documenting it for the digital mob.
And yet, the more we 'know' about the world, the less happy we are to commit. I've always loved exploring a new street in a foreign country. Just the idea of not knowing what awaits me, a scenic vista, or a used car parts garage. Now, I constantly fight the urge to map it out on my phone. What am I missing out on on the other side, the path less trip-advised?
It makes me worry about the writers of the future. Writers have long been keen observers of people in these situations.
They draw characters, build stories, and create art from the mundane.
How will a generation of writers raised on smartphones and ubiquitous notifications find the focus to switch off and observe life?
The thoughtful loner in the cafe is now as likely to be engrossed in Flappy Birds as he is to be completing his Great American Novel. His cast of characters is now a silent and insular mob, surly and isolated by their technology.