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I finally found something worth sharing on my blog when I was 17 years old (6,295 days to be precise). The post Look Up (too)! was one of the very early posts that could meet the bar I had raised for the attention of my readers.
This is a nostalgic article that commemorates the videos that I have discovered over the years that are entertaining, intriguing or satirical.
Gary Turk, who made Look Up, leads by example. So despite the viral sensation on Youtube, he is not very active digitally. Gary has been travelling the world discussing the film – from speaking to school children in over 50 countries, to starring in an Australian TV commercial warning drivers about the risks of looking at their phones while driving.
The Spoken Word Film
I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely.
I speak to all of them everyday, yet none of them really know me.
The problem I have sits in the spaces between,
looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.
I took a step back, and opened my eyes,
I looked around, and realised
This media we call social, is anything but.
When we open our computers, and it’s our doors we shut.
All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion,
of community, companionship, a sense of inclusion
Yet when you step away from this device of delusion,
you awaken to see, a world of confusion.
A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered,
where our information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard.
A world of self-interest, self-image, self-promotion,
where we share all our best bits, but leave out the emotion.
We are at our most happy with an experience we share,
but is it the same if no one is there.
Be there for you friends, and they’ll be there too,
but no one will be, if a group message will do.
We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation,
we pretend not to notice the social isolation.
We put our words into order, until our lives are glistening,
we don’t even know if anyone is listening.
Being alone isn’t the problem, let me just emphasize,
that if you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise,
you are being productive, and present, not reserved or recluse.
You’re being awake and attentive, and putting your time to good use.
So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone,
put your hands behind your head, and step away from the phone.
You don’t need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list,
just talk to one another, and learn to co-exist.
I can’t stand to hear the silence, of a busy commuter train,
when no one wants to talk through the fear of looking insane.
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
to engage with one another, and look into someone’s eyes.
We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born,
watch us living like robots, and think it’s the norm.
It’s not very likely you will make world’s greatest dad,
if you can’t entertain a child without a using an iPad.
When I was a child, I would never be home,
I’d be out with my friends, on our bikes we would roam.
We’d ware holes in my trainers, and graze up my knees;
we’d build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees.
Now the parks are so quiet, it gives me a chill
to see no children outside and the swings hanging still.
There’s no skipping nor hopscotch, no church and no steeple.
We’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.
So look up from your phone, shut down the display,
take in your surroundings, and make the most of today.
Just one real connection is all it can take,
to show you the difference that being there can make.
Be there in the moment, when she gives you the look,
that you remember forever, as when love overtook.
The time you first hold her hand, first kiss her lips,
the time you first disagree, but still love her to bits.
The time you don’t have to tell hundreds what you’ve just done,
because you want to share the moment, with just this one.
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring,
for the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.
The time you want to start a family, and the moment when,
you first hold your little girl, get to fall in love again.
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest,
and the time you wipe away the tears, as your baby flees the nest.
The time your baby girl returns, with a boy for you to hold,
and the day he calls you granddad, and makes you feel real old.
The time you take in all you’ve made, just by giving life attention,
and how you’re glad you didn’t waste it, by looking down at some invention.
The time you hold your wife’s hand, and sit down beside her bed
you tell her that you love her, and lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly, as her heart gives a final beat,
that she’s lucky she got stopped, by that lost boy in the street.
But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this,
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.
So look up from your phone, shut down those displays,
we have a finite existence, a set number of days.
Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net,
as when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret.
I am guilty too, of being part of this machine,
this digital world, where we are heard but not seen.
Where we type as we talk, and we read as we chat,
where we spend hours together, without making eye contact.
Don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype.
Give people your love, don’t give them your like.
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.
Look up from your phone, shut down that display,
stop watching this video, live life the real way.
As I was an early adopter of apps and services, very few people had started using Instagram or Snapchat when I signed up. So this parody song made a lot of sense as they were actually useless.
Despite the cautionary tale of Look Up, Gary is sanguine about the role of screens. Social anxiety disorder is real and social media is responsible for it, as I noted from the Netflix documentary Mind, Explained. People do digital detox on weekends, go to camps. Android and iOS have Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time respectively that help us monitor and control our addiction.
To end the post on a poetic note, let me share a poem
“Television” by the famous poet Roald Dahl:
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set.
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.