I sometimes wonder if Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is the reality and reality is the TV show. Technology has ingratiated itself into every facet of our lives. Every day is permeated by it. I often feel like a complete slave to this device in my hands. I wish I could let it go sometimes.
Why do I feel so bound to it?
There is so much about technology that is incredible. It changes lives for the better every second of every day. But as Black Mirror shows us, there is a dark side to it that’s like an ever-present and rising undercurrent we can’t ignore. It’s the pebble in your shoe that keeps hurting that little bit more with each step, but you keep going anyway because you can’t stop.
We now live in an age where everything is filmed all the time. And it’s not just the misery of paying a fortune to go to a concert only to have everyone in front of you watching it through their video on their smart phone.
It’s stupid stunts like someone filling a blow-up pool with Coke and Pop Rocks to see what happens, to harmless stuff like the cute escapades of animals, to the more harmful habit of videoing someone in a gym for example with the express purpose of body shaming them online, to the videos we’ve seen of stand up rows on air-planes, to the deeply sickening uploading of live videos depicting sexual attacks or murders.
How did we get here?
When did it become expected that we whip out a device and film people in their worst moments?
There’s a video doing the rounds at the moment, of a young child having a so-called ‘unholy toddler tantrum’ on an aircraft. It was described as a long haul flight from Germany to the United States and shows the young child climbing on the seats and screaming and roaring. I’m not going claim to know the full story, because I can’t. I don’t know if the child in question had a behavioural or sensory issue. I don’t know if he was afraid of flying. I don’t know whether he was being bold. I don’t know if his mother was at her wits end.
What I do know is, I’m not going to share it. I’m not going to give it breath, because I find it disguising in the extreme, because its tone was so negative, so judgemental and the comments, as expected, bring to life our worst human qualities.
Shaming, judgement, vitriol. Cutting comments made through a screen, the disconnection somehow justifying the hate.
Modern air travel can be soul destroying at the best of times. It’s queuing, it’s stress, it’s numerous security checks, it’s being in close quarters with strangers you often don’t like, it’s bad food, it’s stale air, it’s uncomfortable seats, it’s shunting from a to b to c. It’s delays, it’s fatigue and it’s expense. And that’s just when you’re in the whole of your health.
So can you imagine how travelling on planes with young kids and babies can be tough, especially when it’s long haul? Sometimes you can be lucky and they can be happy to play quietly, watch a movie, or sleep through the journey. Often that’s not the case. They can get restless, they can get scared, they can feel sick or bored or just want to get out of their seats. They are human beings, just like us, and just like us, they can find the confined close quarters and long hours of a plane journey frustrating, except they don’t have the grown up rationale to sit still for long periods of time. It can be a nightmare scenario without the judgement of others lumped onto the situation, let alone a video documenting the entire thing. Parents are generally stressed to the hilt and are trying their best to minimise the noise or ‘discomfort’ for the rest of the passengers.
At 14 months old, I’ve yet to take my baby boy on a plane. To be honest it’s something I’m dreading because I’m afraid he’ll have a tantrum, or get frightened, or make so much noise that some dickhead will take out his phone, film it, upload it to social media and lay myself my son bare in a moment when we’re really struggling and put it out there for the world to shame and judge.
When did it become okay to do that?
When did we lose our sense of empathy?
It’s as if our smart devices have come along and put up an invisible wall that cuts off our human qualities the second we hold it up.
This video isn’t the first or sadly the last of its kind and I’m not saying I’m a saint either. I’ve commented or shared things that on reflection perhaps I shouldn’t have. I’ve watched something and given my two cents without a thought to the repercussions.
Maybe it’s because I’m now a mum, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but for whatever reason, this video has flipped a switch in my head.
It’s an off-switch.
And as much as I wish it would have the same effect on others, I think the genie is well and truly out of the bottle and we’re overwhelmed by something we cannot stop.