This may sound a little odd, but first watch this commercial:
Done? Ok. Feel a little uncomfortable? I did.
Let’s start with the situation. We have our man character, the young woman, and her date/boyfriend/friend, the guy with the glasses who is standing next to her at the beginning. They’re in an art museum and he’s engrossed in the art while she’s completely disengaged and staring at her phone.
An therein lies my problem.
I have no principle issue with a phone being able to connect to Facebook, or to any other part of the web. Mine can, and it’s useful sometimes. I take issue with the way it’s used in the commercial, and the implication that the use described is a good thing. In the commercial, the young woman is literally transported into an alternate, virtual world where her friends’ Facebook feeds override her corporeal existence. She ceases to take notice of what’s around her; instead, she just sees the manifestation of images on her phone screen. And this is all made out to be revolutionary and desirable.
But despite the connectivity the commercial attests this device will bring, the woman is alone. She isn’t engaged with the aesthetic world around her (which should be all the more compelling given her location), she’s forgotten about the people she’s with. For sake of argument, let’s assume worst case scenario: this is a first date gone terribly wrong, with the guy far more interested in the art than her. Perhaps she can be excused. But even if whatever artwork at hand isn’t her proverbial cup of tea, what the commercial suggests is that this virtual connection is preferable to real, embodied, aesthetic experiences of any sort.
How can the forgettable fluff we throw up on our Facebook pages every day compare to the grandeur of life?
The more of life I experience, the more I learn the importance of physical presence. We are physical beings who thrive on real world, embodied connections. This commercial suggests exactly the opposite to be true. I’m not of the vintage of media critics who suggest we ought to regress to a world before the internet. Only let’s be aware of the at times insidious nature of technology as we move forward into an increasingly virtualized world.