22 January 2015

The Selfie Apocalypse

"Last night I spent four hours straight on Facebook." 
Twelve years ago if I would have spoken those words, not a soul I know would have known what I was talking about. Today, no one I know wouldn't know exactly what I was talking about. Many years ago, before I was born, a folk singer named Bob Dylan sang, "The times are a-changing."  Looking back, his observation seems obvious (didn't Dylan also say, "Don't Look Back"?) yet at the time it needed to be said for there were people who didn't understand this - or who at least didn't want to accept this. But the times did change. Clothing, music, values, traditions, technologies all changed and a new generation adapted and then adopted those changes as their own.  And then those times changed again, and again. And today the times are still a-changing. Can you imagine if you took Bob Dylan circa 1963 and teleported him to a New York City street corner via 2015?  He might think that the Zombie Revolution had come. He would be surrounded by folks standing around looking down at these little handheld boxes, occasionally
touching their finger to them, but rarely looking up from them. Would 1963 Bob think that these were some sort of corporate devises that the government - or perhaps the communists - had developed to control the minds of the masses? Would he be wrong in thinking that?

While I was on the facebook for those four hours last night, I mostly looked at and read updates from Facebook groups/pages dedicated to vintage vinyl and antique audio equipment. According to the internet experts (lol) vintage vinyl and antique audio are more popular than ever right now. In fact new record sales have not been this high since the dawning of the compact disk era in the early 1980s. As the internet experts (again lol) describe it, old people who yearn for the simpler times (the times that Dylan described as "a-changing") are gobbling up old records and old stereos so they can lounge about comfortably in their 'happy place' at home and listen to music the way it was intended to be listened to (when the musical artists of the 50s through 80s had created it). And the younger folks, the hipsters if you will, think this is cool too and are jumping on the bandwagon as well.  Maybe people yearn for a time when the world was more like it was in the 60s and 70s.  Life was different then and it sounded different.  People listened in a different way than they do today.  Folks had a different relationship to time and space.  They experienced the feels and sounds of life without the constant distraction of cell phones, internet, satelite/cable tv, video games.  They didn't have homogenized digital bites bombarding them like people today do.  You can hear that in the songwriting of those past times, songs that reflect a human and comfortingly familiar world in which music was created by musical instruments instead of computers and sound machines - an edit was recorded on beautifully evolved analog equipment that was designed to capture the lush, full sounds of that time - and which alllowed folks to listen to it as the songwriters intended it to be heard.

Those times are gone now - at least in America.  But when I wasn't looking at vintage vinyl and antique audio on Facebook (and when I wasn't trying to avoid the bombardment of memes that are meant to be poignant but that are actually just annoying) I was looking at a number of "off the grid" pages. These are pages that tout alternative energy, growing your own food making your own clothing and generally being at one with nature. The irony of surfing 'off the grid' living pages while spending four hours on the internet did not escape me.  The mere thought of actually living off the grid is both alluring but scary. Scary, because I imagine I would be a lot like the 1963 Bob Dylan, teleported to a New York street corner some 50 years later, surrounded by zombies. I would have no one to interact with, no one to communicate with. Everyone communicates via the little corporate-issued boxes nowadays. How could I relate to the rest of humanity if I didn't have one of those boxes myself?    

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