Sunday, November 19, 2023

“TikTok,” The Days Go By?

I should preface all my observations these days with the following phrase: “Maybe I’m just getting old, but…” ???? Whaddiya think?

The common focus of attention in our society seems to be easily and rapidly shifted from moment to moment, from topic to topic, person to person—like everyone is living at a perpetual cocktail party. This is not just in the way we interact and communicate with one another, but it seems to characterize more and more our whole approach to life.

Many daily activities present us with an overwhelming array of options, so that the completion of what were once simple tasks now requires ponderous little decisions about every step we must take. We also have vast stockpiles of brick-a-brack from different periods of our lives on shelves, in boxes and bins, piled in corners, not to mention the attics and rented storage areas packed with stuff stuff stuff.

Things beckon us with curiosity and then perplex us with their inexhaustible demands, and so we leave off our efforts to engage in a project (or to finish it) and we move on to something else. The daunting spectrum of possibilities that confront us as we go through an ordinary day in the artificial world of ubiquitous technological power wears out our faculty of choosing, and we become increasingly passive. The events of the day “hit us” one after another and we “move through them” as if they are disconnected, discontinuous moments, pieces of life. Or we “react” out of a desperate reach for some sort of coherence, some set of ideas that we fear are being threatened. Emotions are provoked that compound our exhausted, fragmented condition.

Then, when we get a moment “to ourselves,” we feel restless. Our nerves are accustomed to chaotic stimulation, and there is never silence in the technopolis. The air conditioner whirs, traffic goes by, construction workers drill across the street. Clocks no longer “tick tock” but the electronic environment that surrounds us has its own sounds, its “thrum” beneath the threshold of our conscious awareness, its energy coursing all around us, powering the artificial infrastructure that we take for granted in a contemporary house or office.

We are restless. There is always a “tremor” under our feet—I won’t say “on the ground” because our feet are seldom on the actual ground. Our “floors” are constructed, our roads and walkways are concrete, our bodies hurdle over these roads at speeds beyond anything our ancestors dreamed possible while we sit stationary and comfortable inside our great traveling gadgets, and then we exercise on machines in a gym. Our feet rarely touch dirt. But there is always a tremor. Stillness is never entirely still. It’s always a challenge to use our reason, our poor little human reason, and it’s especially hard when our senses are so “stretched”—constantly “plugged in,” enlarged, distracted, scattered, enervated. We are restless.

Our cell phones ring, shake, buzz, and we focus on digital connections near and far. A “world” of information, images, entertainment, opinions that we scroll through, jumping from one thing to another, oblivious to the discontinuity that hinders us from engaging anything in depth. This immensely powerful little gadget has its uses, conveniences, and perhaps it can even be a bit playful.

But how much of all this do we need?

As we scroll through TikTok (or whatever platform we prefer), we might fail to notice that we live our lives in distraction, pulled in so many directions, desires, fears, anger—we live like a TikTok scroll: random, superficial, manipulated, and too fast.

Who is “scrolling through” our lives?