That was the guy sat next to me on the bench at the station this morning. His feet, drumming away on the platform surface as if possessed by the spirit of an enraged Flamenco dancer on speed, or perhaps the result of a very unfortunate, very, very nervous tic.
It was nothing of the sort – the glazed expression, fixed stare focused on the small device in his hand, and the tell tale headphones told the whole story: He was in ‘Oblivious to the Outside World Land’. Just how oblivious was evidenced by the way the whole bench was vibrating from his rhythmic foot exploits, drawing the confused, curious and exasperated stares from fellow passengers, along with his accompanying nasal snorts with which he punctuated his reverie – unconscious of the disgust he was provoking from those around him, who – no doubt, like me – desperately wanted to tell him to blow his nose. He, of course, wasn’t even aware he was doing it.
The ability of modern technology to so effectively isolate us from the physical world around us, to the point where we feel able to behave as if we’re in our own private bubble, completely unaware of the outside world, never ceases to amaze me. Some of the things I’ve seen and heard from people, who seem completely oblivious to the fact they’re on public display, by virtue of the phone held to their ear, or device clutched in their sweaty hand, are both ill-advised and frequently very annoying; and, I dare say, if people could see themselves, they’d be acutely embarrassed by their own behaviour.
It seems that when the tech is turned on, any sense of propriety is turned off – people sing out loud in the subways, dance in the streets, argue volubly in the open air and – worse still – completely forget that they are in a public space and do all manner of personal things, best consigned to the privacy of one’s own home, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re surrounded by strangers. Picking noses, scratching privates, adjusting underwear… anything goes it seems once protected by the cloak of invisibility with which portable tech seems to imbue the owner.
There is a darker side too: The chances of walking under a bus, colliding with a lamp-post, falling down stairs or being mown down by an erratically driven mobility scooter are drastically increased when under the influence of this powerful technological drug. Few of us would dare venture out into the great outdoors, or indeed the not-so-great indoors, whilst wearing earplugs and a blindfold, yet this is essentially what millions of people do every day when they step out of their front door, equipped with earbuds and mobile device. And it’s only going to get much worse…
Pokemon Go, in the short time since its release, has already started collecting its fair share of victims – from stumbling across dead bodies, getting lost underground and robbed at knife point, it’s simply a matter of time before the body count starts stacking up. There’s something rather sinister about the way that PG manages to turn everyday people into single-minded zombies, oblivious to anything around them.
Thank goodness that SL is somewhat immune to such things. Whilst it’s perfectly possible to become immersed in SL to the exclusion of our surroundings, it’s fairly difficult to do so to the point where we are completely oblivious to them. Certainly, we can slip on a pair of headphones and try to forget the real world, but the virtual world, whether on a big screen, laptop or even mobile device, doesn’t demand the same attention levels as most other virtual environments, and many of us do find our attention can wander, either intentionally or otherwise, from the job in hand. Few of us will ever be in the position where indulging our SL interests will ever put us in harm’s way, and most of us – when we’re in company – are probably less likely to lose our sense of decorum in the way that my foot tapping, snot sniffing, bench sitter managed to this morning.
It did seem, for a while, that particular virtue of SL was under threat – the looming spectre of Oculus Rift promised all sorts of mayhem and disaster for the future, by depriving us of any connection with the real world whilst logged in, but now that Linden Lab have quietly knocked Oculus on the head, it does seem that we might have escaped that particular indignity 🙂
Call me old fashioned, but keeping the virtual world experience firmly within the stereotypical basement, with blinds drawn, and a bowl of cheesy snacks on the side, is actually rather more appealing than flaunting my virtual exploits in public!
I’ve been roaming around
Always looking down at all I see
Painted faces, fill the places I can’t reach
Pixie Lott – Use Somebody