EVERY second person I come across these days is away with the fairies. I can’t reach them, and, as far as I can make out, they don’t even see me, though I might be waving frantically after falling into the Shannon.
Digitally detached from reality, they move like zombies through everyday life, unaware of their surroundings and completely bewitched by their smartphones and other technical devices.
One of them aimed a phone at me the other day, trying to capture, on camera, either me or that other ancient edifice, St Flannan’s Cathedral, which I happened to be walking past at the time. The woman didn’t even give me time to say ‘cheese’, not to talk of trying to defend my privacy. The Cathedral looked magnificent, as usual, but my hair was in desperate need of a blow-dry. However, I was deluding myself. As I said, she didn’t even see me. The woman was just trying to catch Pokémon. Do I look like Pokémon, or what?
This year, I’m reminded, is the silver jubilee of the introduction of the world wide web which by all accounts, changed our lives much more fundamentally than Columbus did when he discovered the new world five hundred years previously – almost to the day. The minute I heard of the web back in the last century AD, I knew it would be trouble. I must have been a fly in a previous life.
At the time, I was afraid to even answer the phone in case the bank manager or some other curmudgeon, was on the other end. But I had no choice because I was working from home as a reporter, and the last thing in the world I’d have wanted was a big story breaking on my doorstep while the phone was ringing out.
But the prospect of increased connectivity and reachability just freaked me out – not to talk of all the buttons I’d have to press. A big story did happen on my doorstep once in the early days of computerisation.
I wrote it up just in time for the deadline, and then promptly lost it all when I pressed the wrong button. That was bad enough until a couple of days later, our resident IT expert retrieved the story from the ether and dangled it in front of my eyes.
It reminded me of nothing but the day long ago when a scientifically minded teenage friend and I were testing our echoes in a valley near Dolla, and she told me that everything we ever said was out there somewhere. The day would come, she predicted solemnly, when they’d find a way to retrieve our voices from the ether. The prospect sent me into a terrible panic as the echoes continued to resound. Some of the things I had said, even in my young life, simply couldn’t be repeated.
Anyway, it was a forced marriage, me and the World Wide Web. I had to embrace it, even when I desperately wanted to sabotage it. It enriched our lives and helped to educate us, I was told, and I believed that until one day I got a phone-call from a girl who was trying to find a cure for blushing. She had used a particular search engine and up popped yours truly who had written a tongue in cheek article about the problem a couple of years previously and was now, according to the internet, a proclaimed expert on the subject. What could I do, only blush?
Anyway I did embrace technology in the end, even though we never fell in love, which is just as well considering my addictive genes. I have a smartphone now that pretends to be smarter than I am, but unlike some other smart Alecs I’ve come across, I know that I can just throw it on the floor and stamp on it if it gets too uppity. I’m not on Facebook anymore and whatever twittering I do will have to be retrieved from the universe when they find the key to unlocking the entire ether. I read my emails on designated days, when I’m feeling up to it, and I can’t understand for the life of me why people would want high speed Broadband in every corner of the land. Surely we should leave a few places that would serve as refuges from instant contactability. You’d be amazed at the number of people who simply want to escape.
Which brings me to the whole point of the column this week! There is help at hand for those of you who have become addicted to your smart phones and your lap tops, a kind of a detox programme which I read about in a newspaper at the week-end. It’s for people who are glued to their screens, big and small, day and night, and who are unable to break free of this digital dictatorship. It’s ideal for those who are away with the fairies and who spend their lives taking selfies of themselves. By all accounts, it’s infinitely preferable to having to put up with thorns in the bed for having upset the wee folk. Unfortunately the article and the newspaper have gone in the bin, but I’m sure you’ll get in on the internet.
Meanwhile with a smugness I hope isn’t too obvious, I will continue getting my 24 hour breaking news from Sky and I’ll remain an avid newspaper reader, loving nothing more than the rustle of the pages and the smell of printer’s ink, which I know now is just a memory. But that’s alright too. Finally, I refuse adamantly to indulge my infantile side and run after an imaginary Pokémon, when there is still so much more rewarding in the real world to capture and appreciate.