Clicking Off, from Marion Dreyfus

December 13, 2013 |

 We hardly admit it, but we're drowning. Everyone reading is pretty much unable to stay above the tide. Like fish, only more sentient, we're dead center of the slurry, oceans of information swarming our eyes, crashing our senses.

We feel guilty when we sleep, take just one more peek at the email, post just a quick Tweet before we meet friends, dip into our mail for a fast minute at work, find we've deleted something we regret, but simply have no seconds to stomach the full-time, endless "oughts" of the electronic tsunami.

We all know someone who fancies herself smarter than the rest of us, because she won't truck with the latest cell phone, won't bend to the Illuminati of the instagram, doesn't yield to the demands of the computer.
But that person is seen increasingly through the rear-view mirror, trafficking with the stegasauri and Jurassic eosinifils. The rest of us can't afford to be that ludicrous, in the sense of celebrating the estate of being a Luddite.

Makes a nostalgic throwback to an earlier era. We don't have the luxury.

So the increasingly few opt out. They are now so quaint a phylum they own their own kenning: The cellphobes. They neatly elude and sidestep what the rest of us live with night and day: deadly Fear of Missing Out.
And as we fail to admit we are awash and below catch-up level of our Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter accounts, not to mention our humdrum but cataracting email interstates on a daily basis, do we any the less avoid admitting we have FOMO phobia?

It feels ridiculous to admit the cyber manacles of our dancing digits, our pixilated programs. Though they suck the life from our life, induce stiffness in the joints and make of our bottoms the environment for immobile moss fields, we stay at our screen, at our tablets, at our Droids. Walking, as we almost all do, eventually, into curbs, traffic-filled streets, other people. We commune, we think, with others. But it is rather more a solipsistic arabesque with ourselves. We are ever more unapproachable, and even our social talking one-on-one skills are taking on water. Or oxidizing.

Can we opt out of text messaging, insta-memos, Wiki and pricky, emoticons and apps, sexting and wrexting?

Some decades ago, extrapolating from what scientists saw were disabling loss of mobilities when an organism failed to exercise an extremity or its limb, researchers predicted the loss of our toes. Why would we need these uncomplaining cuties, if we lumped ourselves endlessly at a screen, and walking was only a temporary way-station to further sedentary electronics? Think the animated feature, E-Wall, where evolution had re-scripted us, and no one could walk after centuries of sitting.

Ergo, we have, if you check your own footfalls, nearly sacrificed our metaphysical toes. We hardly walk the talk any more, making it all about the pecking order, the not-real-time message that need not extract a real-time response that might interfere with our communal communing. Do you prefer the cyberdunk over the telephonic challenge? We save time not speaking.

Even at important events, our preeny little bastards sit smugly on the table, wanting just the tocsin to light up and divert us from actual discussions with real protoplasm and corn biscuits, a bad hair day and Reeboks on decrementalizing feet.

These svelte palm-fit slugs with all the fingerprint maulings, 3" x 5" peremptory pashas, command our instant response. Our tablets command our eyes, engage our hands. NCIS would make a meal of these most intimate companions. We rush out of the conference, twist and tilt the axis enough to give us wrist-lock, artificially quell our a-borning panic with the callback feature.

Moreover, soon we are afflicted with telling thirst, as we see a dwindling energy supply. Bars fading. Shrinking-percentage screens. Making us dependent every night on the recharge buffets, slurping it slowly from our walls. Like those kissy-face suckerfish, the Plecostomus (Pleco to friends) that keep the aquarium clean by scarfing up the daily algae, their smooch-up lips tight to the glass tank; filling us up, getting us back to command-enabled. Open and charged for business, yo.

A good thing, since AAA doesn't service anything non-auto. Out of juice, we stay edgy and unfinished until we can refill. Even if we have those accessories that are quick-recharge. Another drain. Another device to keep track of, to lose.

And as with the emergence of all new industries, our energy usage obsession has spawned a pop-up industry, as devices get gussied up in a diversity of fashion: Some covers and tablet cases are fit for de Sade. Some for Masoch. Spikes, leathers, mirrorings. Studs and sequins.

Apps. Musical codas. More apps.

M etaphorically, we half-listen for a flashing beep, a vibrato, a tone, so we can importantly acknowledge our busy-ness. We choose to rudely respond to our strident musical summons, sometimes over what used to be considered far more …rewarding pursuits. Most barely remember to apologize for repairing to the handheld when in company.

Quick.Before it stops its variant b-b-r-ring.

An uncivil act, at base. Whipping us from meeting, art and intimacy. From the once-unshaken millennial cycles of sleep and life, work and rest, we get the permanent wash of twilight bytes. Crouched and poised to snap off our attention over anything less encompassing.

We are largely dependentized, now little more than unwonted reception-delivery systems.

We chomp, tautly tethered to the tele-, rather than they being umbilical to us. We subsume our creativity and -ertia to its vibratory summons. It is a molecular cyber-rope, just an architecture and definition from being just so much cyber-rape.

It is of course not Luddism we fear. It is much more the terror of being left stranded, Cast Away, but inside our metropoli. A more potent whipping than any lash; a guillotine of guilt and lockstep keeping-up'ism.

Our now-indispensable life-supports dispense telephony. We swim with, and against, the tide they provide, even if we might wish to be decoupled from their unending burden. Preferring not to be swept overboard, yet even on vacation, we clamor to outlets, recharging, hungrily back into the cyberswim.

Some of us are more manic than others, but even the mildest put in a toe, a foot, our all.

The question is, given our growling reluctance to be drowned, possessed by the nonstop tsunami: Do we dare click off?


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