“..every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens
Sitting in the audience of a West End theatre for the first time in a long time this week, I was struck by the relative timelessness of the setting, the medium’s removal from technology.
Functioning almost exclusively within a single domain can make it difficult to see out. A necessary predominant focus on your business and its industry inevitably means other worlds can get blurrily peripheral: like an in-law you can just about stumble through a conversation with by knowing they like snooker.
You go to watch a play, retreat back home, or are displaced somewhere and remember that although technology (or whatever it is) is vital to you, although you break out in sweats if separated from your iPhone for half hour, it’s not really that important to others.
Chatting to a team-mate in a couple of weeks ago, I had one of those rare “so what do you do for a living then?” chats.
He was a successful tradesman, carpenter, decorator with a good team of loyal workers. He’d never advertised his business anywhere. Word Of Mouth apparently remains the most pervasively powerful recommendation tool for anything or anyone.
I almost found it quaint that such businesses could thrive when divorced with much that’s considered standard about business communication: the apparent social media revolution et al. And curious that there are such small business ways of working which have never much been defined by technology.
Having a mobile phone which enables you to make voice calls on the go: that’s probably as far as it reaches. I didn’t ask, but I doubt he uses the spirit level iPhone app.
He returned the same question and admirably feigned a level of interest in my answer.
After trying to explain and enthuse about Augmented Reality as an example of a new mobile technology, I was met with the response:
“Why point a phone at a shop, or packet or landmark, and wait for the information to load on a screen? Why not walk up to a person and ask them the question? – If you’re really that fussed?”
Attitudes and behaviours change with new generations and youthful adoption of new media methods, different ways of interacting. They’re the ones who influencers and technologists are most interested in listening to; they hold the key, we’re told. Yet for a flickering moment I empathised with my team-mate’s technological apathy.
Taken a step further, you could even suggest an unavoidable degree of dehumanisation comes with the development of technology. Are we making it harder, or somehow less acceptable to physically speak to each other? To interact at the most basic level? To ask people questions over counters? To borrow and lend?
Technology can divide and segregate groups as much as it can bring them together. The rift between sniffy non Tweeters and Tweeters has become pronounced this year.
Blinking out of the theatre and into the heaving festive West End, conversation of the show slowly ebbed and attention turned to respective mobile devices: reflecting the continued and unthinking wave of dependence. However heavily we invest, most modern world dwellers will be affected by the contents of that portable little box you carry around and how you interact with it.
Could a long term effect be of slapping us firmly into neat, taggable demographic, geolocated bubbles where we can float along blissfully, remotely controlling everything we need without ever having to consider other people? Unless we want to.
How Ebenezer Scrooge would have loved such a world. He wouldn’t have cared for social media of course, unless ranting in a Charlie Brooker style. But with the number of online services at his fingertips, Ocado could’ve delivered his Turkey, he might have got rid of that simpering Cratchett and had less need to speak to others. Or even ever venture outside.
‘Merry Christmas’. I’m away to get boiled with my pudding.