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.