MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “digital”

Needing something you don’t know you do

The thing with shopping is that you don’t know you want something until the moment you see it. And despite not really needing it before, in that precise moment you can conjure up so many different uses for it that it becomes a must-need purchase. And just like that, you become a shopper.

Jenny was an avid shopper. For all kinds of things.

The most dangerous type of shopping is the online one. Because there you spend hours on end scrolling through sites, experiencing a different kind of window-shopping, to the extent that you forgot what you actually needed to do, or how you even ended up on that particular site. But in seconds, you become so mesmerised by the need to acquire something you only see on a screen that you end up rapidly spending money you don’t actually ever see to buy products you cannot feel or test. And then there is the added anguish of having to constantly monitor your order to ensure that it will eventually arrive to your doorstep. And if not, there is at times an endless bureaucratic procedure to get your money back or at least the product at a delayed arrival time. It makes you wonder if it is worth the trouble of actually going to a store and purchasing things in hand.

But Jenny loved online shopping. It somehow offered the therapy she needed from the comfort of her own couch, scrolling thorough different interesting products and styles and imagining how she could wear or make use of them. She knew that online offers were a lure. A cheeky one often, because they were targeting consumers like her who couldn’t resist. But she would always fall into the trap and then rummage for cash until the end of the month.

She was somehow compensated for it all though when her digitally-purchased package finally arrived. And the unboxing process filled her with joy. As if someone else had given her a gift.

Sometimes the things we give ourselves are what make us happy, even if they do decrease our funds.


The difficulties of detachment

The reality is this: even when on holiday, on a leave, on a short getaway, we feel the need to be connected with the world digitally. We fear we’ll miss out otherwise. That something life-shattering will occur and we won’t know about it and we’ll be the only ones feeling we’ve been living under a rock simply because we don’t know of the latest trending topics.

So we spend our entire lives – without break – constantly attached to a digital world we are paradoxically trying to escape from.

We can’t turn it all off and disappear, although we know that would be the ideal.

We are unable to disengage, to discharge from the social media stress because we’re constantly thinking of our next post, our reaction to someone else’s post and so forth.

We’re caught up in an unhealthy antagonism of who’s having the most fun in the better place, and we waste time like this instead of actually having that fun and enjoying ourselves with the people physically next to us.

We find it almost impossible to distract our minds, to unplug from it all and simply relax. It’s as if we can’t not do anything. By now, due to the radical rhythms in which we live our lives, something still and tranquil is considered by our systems as abnormal. As something we are almost physically incapable of doing.

We are so dependent on our devices, we cannot enjoy the reality of doing things without flaunting them.

And in the end, we forget to chase our dreams because we’re busy chasing after the acceptance of people we hardly even know. For no apparent or useful reason.

It’s good to – at least try – to detach from it all for a while. To remember what it was like without the intrusion of social media in our lives. When everything – even our relationships – were so much simpler. And we weren’t all so constantly agitated and stressed that we are perpetually on the verge of a burnout.

Shine and sparkle

The Christmas-New Year festive season gives us the opportunity to rethink a lot of things in our lives. Least of all, who our real friends are, who are the ones who actually care and with whom we want to spend these special days with.

But the season also grants you the chance to view life in a different perspective. To set goals and ambitions, to consider how many of your wishes have already been fulfilled and to become more determined about realising the others. It makes you stop for a minute and think what we really need to be happy and satisfied with ourselves and the life we lead.

In the current times, what is perhaps most important is the time you spend offline. Those moments you don’t post online for all to see and envy. The hours you spend away from your screens and without the temptation of needing to look at your phone every now and then.

You feel special not because of the digital life you pretend to have, but because of the people who actually surround you in reality. Who truly show they care and who go out of their way to surprise you simply to see you smile as brightly as the lights over your head.

It’s the moments that make you shine and sparkle that make your life complete.

And we should always make it a New Year’s Resolution to have more of them.

The anti-tech mute name was Edison. He had it sculpted on a wooden plaque in his bedroom to remind himself of it.

It was years since he decided to retreat into solitude. At first, he saw it as a challenge, because he realised he was too drawn into the digital life of constant social networking, online media access, useless self-advertising and unabashed self-appreciation. He did not like the person he had become. He was hanging upon the number of likes he would receive on every post he made, on the number of followers his posts would receive, on the number of people who viewed the videos he uploaded. It was as if this invisible click by people he didn’t even know was what kept him alive. So he decided to do something radical about it. He decided to disconnect from everything and everyone. Those who really cared would find a way to contact him. Everyone else did not matter.

For two years, he had devised a lifestyle where his talk was limited to simple daily transactions to meaningless chit-chat with neighbours and co-workers. Everything else, was typed on a laptop.

One day, however, he woke up with a strange feeling. He felt his vocal chords had gone numb. He could not utter a sound. Was it true that you could forget how to talk if you didn’t speak?

He tried to shout, to scream, to say something, to whisper even, but nothing came out. Not even a screech.

He felt all his other senses heightened. As though the lens in his eyes with which he viewed the world had suddenly zoomed in and he witnessed everything in more detail, more clearly and with greater analysis. He began to notice things people did that he failed to see before. The level and tone of voice they used to speak to each other. He could comprehend simply by the sound and intensity of their voices and their body language what these people felt about each other. And he acknowledged that as a people we have become more aggressive, more aggravated, are more stressed and in constant agitation.

When he went home that night, he turned on his laptop, opened a new document and began to type. He may not have been able to speak at the moment, but that in itself made a fantastic theme for his new book: the new-age entrepreneur who became an anti-tech mute. He would find a way to raise a warning about the dangers he saw unfolding. And he would do so the only way he knew how.

Don’t sing too often

In these contemporary times, where everything is public and in plain sight, there is the prevailing sentiment that everyone wants what’s best for you, as long as it’s not better than what they have. Jealousy is a nasty thing. Envy is even worse.

According to the ancient Greek poet Callimachus, “jealousy is the daughter of self-love and inseparable sister of envy and malice.”

Jealous people are often insecure, feeling inferior towards others, or desiring something that the other has. But jealousy is a negative emotion, transmitting a gloomy aura.

Paulo Coelho says “never hate jealous people. They are jealous because they think you are better than them”. The simple knowledge of this fact should suffice.

But there is something more.

Sometimes we are the ones who provoke this so-called “evil eye”, because we so want to share our good fortune, our happiness and optimism with others. In the era of social networking and continuous (digital) exposure, however, this isn’t exactly the best option.

There is a relevant story on precisely this: once upon a time, there was this little sparrow, who while flying south for the winter froze solid and fell to the ground. And then to make matters worse the cow crapped on him, but the manure was all warm and it defrosted him. So there he is, he’s warm and he’s happy to be alive and he starts to sing. A hungry cat comes along and he clears off the manure and he looks at the little bird and then he eats him. And the moral of the story is this: everyone who craps on you is not necessarily your enemy, and everyone who gets you out of crap is not necessarily your friend, and if you’re warm and happy no matter where you are you should just keep your big mouth shut.

There are some people who draw misery out of the happiness of others. There are those who instead of turning jealousy into a productive impulse to become better themselves, convert it into envy and attempt to darken the lives of others. So perhaps let us rather see how we can make our own souls brighter, stirring from within us the change and improvement we seek, and let’s try to envy others less, as they may be managing to do exactly what we hesitate to act upon.

Living with/in social media

asocial-networkingIn an age where everything is public, everything also inevitably affects us no matter how much we deny it. We are so hooked on our digital existence that we really can’t see to be without it. It is as if we don’t exist unless we document our actions and share it online for the world to see. No matter how trivial or silly these may be.

The problem with social media nowadays is that nothing is truly private anymore. The confines of personal space and data have become blurred. Once information is “out there” it can literally never be retrieved and re-hidden, regardless of how much it is deleted.

We live in a period when our pass-time is spying on one another online. We may never speak in real life, but have the closest virtual connections and know all about one another’s life – or at least the image we each want to portray – solely from what we post online. Fake or real, our lives have been transferred onto a screen, be it big or small. And it is in that, however, that we’ve lost our human emotion in an attempt to gain more communication. The digital evolution has undoubtedly advanced communication through the certainty granted by the distance provided by the screen, and the time allowed to work on the expression of your views; because otherwise we would seemingly drown in all those things that would have been left unsaid. Yet, filling up with words and flagrant demonstrations of actions, we have become void of sentiment. We have lost the ability to talk, to gaze into the other person’s eyes and speak without saying a word. To understand through the tone of their voice, the message of their heartbeat. To comprehend their state of mind, simply by observing their body language. There are so many things that a screen can still not convey.  And it is through this smartphone and digital media addiction, that we have brought upon us the death of conversation, panicking like drug addicts experiencing withdrawal symptoms when we are found without a device in hand. It is a necessary evil of the modern age, but like everything in life, we need to be able to control and take hold of it. Not allow it to be the other way around.


Also part of Daily Prompt: Panic

Paper books or e-readers?

books vs ebooksWith so many things to read nowadays, we often get lost not only in the material but in the medium of reading. You see people reading constantly and everywhere – paper books, magazines, newspapers, on tablets, phablets, e-readers, phones. Choosing the right medium is not simply a matter of preference, it is also of convenience. So what do you prefer, a paper book or an e-reader?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle (for many more reasons beyond its practicality), but there is just something else present in a real paper book that cannot be replaced by any screen. And it is not just the excitement of getting your hands on a new book every once in a while (because, really, how many times are you going to buy an e-reader?).

In an era that sees the rapid rise of a “screen culture” we often need to take time off any and every screen. It is just not natural. And it is unhealthy being stuck in front of a screen all day. Get your hands on a book, flick through its pages, smell that odour of print and paper, rub the rough yellow sheets between your fingers, roll your hands over the indentations of the cover, mark the page you left off, feel the agony, work and inspiration that were involved in making that book, and let the magic radiating from each and every page carry you away.

Of course, you can still read the same book on an e-reader, but this digital medium just won’t allow you to completely engage in the relationship between book and reader. Sure, it is more convenient in many ways – for example, e-books are cheaper than paper ones; you can carry your e-reader anywhere at any time, having with you an abundance of books all at once; and quite significantly, you can read anything anywhere surreptitiously without being afraid of being judged, as it is impossible to see what you’re reading and can thus saturate your curiosity for a range of genres.

Reading a book is not just a past-time. It is an experience. A journey into another world. It is a way of getting lost without even moving from your couch. And it is one that will enrich your life.

So in essence, it doesn’t really matter where you read something, just as long as you immerse yourself fully into it. You’ll never regret it. (Unless it is a really bad book, but that’s another story).

Selfish Shellfish Selfies

ShellfieGo into a café. Look around. How many people do you see who are really conversing? Who are actually talking and listening to each other? Look at their hand gestures, their body movement, their eye contact. Any? Now, count how many people you see instead being distracted by a digital device. Too many to count, huh?

It’s amazing how the first thing we have come to notice when entering a café, a bar, a restaurant, is whether they have free Wi-Fi or not. As if that is the criterion of whether their food will be healthy or tasty, or even edible. Because of course, we then have to check-in, post on every social media account we have, that we are at that specific place. And then, we have that irresistible need – that feels like an itch that must be scratched – to take selfies of everything, as if that is what will prove our existence.

We have become such narcissists and so self-centred that when someone asks us what we do, we hesitate for a while, and our thoughts run to the last thing we posted or read online in order to find an interesting conversation starter. How many hours of the day do we spend sunk in a screen, reading. As though we are shellfish retreating in their hard exterior, waiting for the moment a pearl will emerge. Reading about the news, about other people’s status updates, about pretty much everything. Because we need to be informed about everything. And then we also need to have an opinion about everything too. And we obviously need to post it to demonstrate that we are opinionated and follow the current trends.

But just consider for a moment, what happens during a power cut? We sit in silence not knowing what to do. And if we still have charged phones, we might take a selfie and save it for later, to post as soon as power is back – #blackout #nowwhat #awkward.

Is this what we want to be remembered as? The generation hashtag? We are so busy trying to prove that we are active digitally that we don’t really do much in reality. What is the point of going for a hike or for a cross-country train ride, when you keep posting updates of your location? How are you exactly enjoying being in nature away from the digital insanity? Sure, take pictures, but save them for later. Then you can comprehensively recap your experience and tell others how worthwhile it was to escape for a while. Prompt yourself and others to step away from the screen.

Because, honestly, is this all we have to show for ourselves? That we are selfish shellfish taking selfies?


Also part of Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me

Also part of Daily Post: 21st Century Citizen

Surviving without the Net

mac-internet-sharingThere is a child in a pram holding a tablet. It can barely say two words but it knows how to swerve its fingers in order to play a virtual game. There is another one which needs a screen in front of it depicting moving images, so it can eat a spoonful of food. Then there are the older ones that have a smartphone stuck to their hands as if their life depends on it. There is a man who enters the swimming pool with a digital gadget in a waterproof case. And these are not unique cases.

We spend our days fixed onto a screen; a digital depiction of reality, while real life passes us by. We are so deeply addicted to this new-age “disease” that we cannot even imagine life without it. Without a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, or simply put, the Internet.

So much, that when you are found in a location with no Internet access, you immediately classify it as an uncivilized place – because, really, who in this day and age does not offer free Wi-Fi!? – and then you struggle to survive a few days without the one thing that has become an intrinsic part of your day. You can feel the withdrawal symptoms already kicking in in less than 24 hours. You desperately try to find a Wi-Fi network anywhere. Simply to log-on and surf the web. Just open a browser onto any page. To view anything. Simply to feel ‘safe’ that you are online, even for 5 minutes. To sense that you are in familiar space, no matter if that is virtual.

By the end of day one, your hands are already itchy. You are even considering knitting. Simply to keep yourself busy.

We have become so addicted to the Internet – that place where you can find literally anything – that surviving without it seems like balancing without a net. And as we become all the more connected and digitally forward, we become socially awkward network junkies. All the while, reality continues to pass us by, without us even noticing.

The story of the driverless trucks

dnews-files-2013-03-Driverless-trucks-japan-jpgIt was raining heavily on the highway. Water drops were splashing fiercely on the windscreen as if trying to punish it for standing in their way of reaching the hot asphalt. It was unusual to rain in the summer in Larrypede. Summers were often scorching hot and humid. The only water drops one could find were the ones from their own sweat dripping from their forehead.

But today the clouds that covered the sky turned the day into night. If you didn’t know that it was just 11am you would have thought it was already evening.

Jessica and Todd had chosen the wrong day to visit their friends in the nearby town. But they were already halfway there so it was easier to just continue than turn back.

Todd had never found driving on the highway so strenuous before. He usually loved driving. And Jessica felt so safe with him behind the wheel that she usually slept the whole drive there.

Today was different, though. And it was not just the rain, thunder and lightning. There was something else in the atmosphere. Something mysterious that kept everyone tense and on-edge. Even the deer and the horses you could see along the highway were unnerved.

Then all of a sudden Jessica noticed something equally strange. They were the only car on the highway. Every so often though they passed by a huge truck with some sort of company advertising scribbled all over its container. But that was it. No other cars. Just their little city car and the trucks.

Why do truck drivers have such a bad name? Surely driving such a huge car is similar to driving a bus, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s because in the truck the driver has no company? It’s just him and his cargo?” Jessica was lost in her thoughts as she watched trucks pass-by them more frequently now. She remembered all those movies she had seen the majority of which referred to truck-drivers as horny, vulgar and disturbing old men, most of who were very often unshaved. She shuddered, as she turned to look at Todd. He was nothing like that. He was clean, gentlemanly and the smartest man she knew. She smiled as her goosebumps retreated.

They were now witnessing one truck every few metres. And the rain was falling stronger.

Jessica stared out the window trying to look into the driver’s seat. She wanted to ascertain whether the movie stereotypes about truck-drivers were true.

But she couldn’t get a clear view. Not because of the rain. But because of the lack of any driver.

She nudged Todd in panic. Maybe she was just imagining things. But he confirmed as the blood gushed from his face and he turned a ghostly pale.

The trucks had no drivers.

So where were they all going? And who was driving?

A few miles done the road, the little city car was surrounded by huge trucks. There was no way of trespassing or getting away now.

Why is it that whenever you make an important realization something worse happens?

They were only 20 minutes from their destination but now it seemed they would never reach it.

Why don’t you stop the car?” suggested Jessica as Todd was stirring his head from truck to truck wondering what to do.

And then what? No one will ever find us!” said Todd in a voice reminiscent of the key character in horror movies.

So all they could do was let the trucks lead the way.

It eventually stopped pouring. As if all of a sudden the skies had opened up and sucked back in all the rain. Even the clouds began to disburse when they finally reached a small farm house in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing else around. Only a few horses, cows and hens. Probably to fool people that it was a farmhouse.stock-footage-haunted-house-abandoned-farmhouse-in-rural-ontario-canada

What is this place? Is this where they’ll kill us and hide our bodies?” Jessica asked terrified.

You watch too many movies,” replied Todd, trying to remain calm. One of them should.

The trucks parked in parallel at a gravel opening that seemed to be used just for this purpose. Then everything went quiet.

Todd turned off the engine. He squeezed Jessica’s hand, took a deep breath and got out of the car.

There was no one in sight.

Jessica felt something soft rub against her leg. She squirmed and jumped onto Todd.

It’s only a raccoon!” he laughed mainly out of fright.

curious_raccoon_baby__by_eegaas-d4i0sm8There was only one person in Larrypede who was known to have befriended raccoons. And he was thought to be dead after he disappeared ten years ago. No one ever liked him as he never spoke to anyone. No one even knew his real name. They just called him Larry Raccoon.

Don’t ya worry he won’t harm you! This one’s extra friendly!” An old man humped and wretched-looking came out of the farm house. He had a white beard that reached his chest and ragged clothes as though he had been wearing them for years. He was thin to the bone but appeared to be as strong as his thundering voice.

It was Larry Raccoon. Todd recognized him from the images in the books on the myths of Larrypede. How was he here? Alive?

The old man offered tea and Jessica screamed. In her mind the tea would be laced with poison that would kill them instantly; he would use the horses to drag them into a pit; and no one would ever find them. She snapped instantly when Todd squeezed her hand. Maybe he was right. She does watch too many movies. But then again, you never know…

The tea was just that: a simple herbal drink. But the farm house inside had the appearance of secret cutting-edge headquarters. It was full of equipment, technology that Todd had never seen before, things he didn’t even know existed. And screens filled the place. He could see the entire highway stretch plus all the buildings in Larrypede.

Who was this guy?

Before they even had the chance to ask, Larry began to tell his story. His grandfather had come from the other end of the earth in search of innovation. His dream was to make technology work for mankind and not the other way around as it has become. He set up home at the town that now has taken his name and people flocked from across the country to witness the inventions of the “madman”. Some believed he could do it. Others simply mocked him. The dream was passed from father to son and then to grandson as the town grew. But belief in his purpose floundered. People began to think he was truly crazy as he was secluded in his house day and night trying to realize his grandfather’s dream. He had vowed to make it happen. People began to pay less and less attention to him. The only creatures that willingly came over for some reason were raccoons. And he welcomed the company. One day, Larry believed he had finally made the dream happen. He had created a car that did not need a driver. It could go wherever you wanted it to and you could direct it through a simple remote control and camera. But the car never returned and Larry set off to find it. If he could fix this error he had achieved the dream! But he got lost on the highway – he was never very good with orientation. He couldn’t find his way back and no one ever thought of looking for him. So he set up home in a deserted farm house. And began reinventing his dream from scratch. But this time he knew how to perfect it. That was how the driverless trucks came to be. But from the attitude he experienced while developing such technology he realized people were not ready for it. That’s why he never made a re-appearance. “Mankind is still too stupid and too selfish to take on such great responsibility,” he said.

The why did he bring these two here? He wanted to test his theory. Had things changed?

The bewilderment in Jessica’s face and the dazzlement in Todd’s eyes provided the answer he was looking for. And then Todd simply confirmed: “Think of all the things you could do with this technology! All the money you could make! You could build your own town! Who cares about the people who don’t talk to you!

Larry shook his head in disappointment. “It’s time you should go,” he said, as he offered some more tea. But this time Jessica was right. He did pour something in it.

When they finally reached their friends’ house, Todd and Jessica could not remember why they delayed by an hour.

Traffic on the highway,” said Todd. “and bad weather!” added Jessica. “Too bad cars can”t drive themselves yet, would have saved us some trouble” joked Todd as black clouds gathered over the sky and it started to rain again.


Written on the bus ride from Frankfurt to Strasbourg on 9 April 2014.

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