The other night The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant and myself were out at a fairly posh restaurant for dinner and we were being – well, we were being reasonably goopy, so I looked guiltily around the joint to make sure that nobody was vomiting noisily into their starched super-sized napkins at our behaviour.
The guilt quickly passed when I saw that with the exception of the couple next to us, every single person in that place was on their phone, either texting, taking a selfie or possibly ordering the start of an air strike on IS.
It was a little hard to tell.
This was not the Scottish Restaurant, people. This was a ritzy, romantic, white-table clothed place of low voiced genuine French wait staff who spoke in soothing murmurs about wine which came with corks instead of screw tops, and food which TMWVRDT ordered by its subtitles after the maître d’ pretended he didn’t hear him the first time.
I love my phone, and I am extremely aware I have an umbilical attachment to it – it’s hard not to when you run a business, and especially when you run a business which is partly about social media. But I also love talking to people face to face. I love finding out what makes them tick, and imagining stories for the faces of those in a social setting. A favourite game of The Man and I is to make up lives for strangers (which I am sure would horrify some of them).
Sadly however, the art of conversation seems to be something that is, along with real memories as opposed to the goldfish span moment of the selfie, rapidly dying out.
Our storage cells are no longer in our brains but in our back pockets. We are so busy recording the present with our batphones that we aren’t living it. Every single one of those people at dinner the other night wasn’t engaging, or laughing, or feeling any empathy. They weren’t even making fun of the people three tables down, because they were the people at the table three tables down, and we were the only people even remotely interested in the life around us. They were watching their screens to make sure nothing had happened in the cyberverse, like the Bachelor growing a brain.
I watched a family at the beach the other day. The father had set up beach cricket and was trying to get the kids to have a game.
The kids weren’t having a bar of it. They were perhaps eight and ten years old, and they were at the beach, on an amazing Spring day, with the world in front of them – and they had their faces in their iPads.
For all I know they were playing virtual cricket.
But they sure as hell weren’t making memories.
Remember that day we went to the beach and played cricket? Remember when we went out to dinner and you tried to speak French to the waiter?
Because the present is another country.
And they do things in the cloud there.