The morning train is always full of young Japanese school children, students, businessmen and women with their noses buried in their iPhones. The young ones are probably looking at social media sites while the adults are often playing computer games (I look over their shoulders while strap hanging). The people holding iPhones that aren’t lucky enough to be sitting on the jam-packed morning train often lean slightly back into the person behind them so as to read their screens more easily.
While walking to the university I notice many of the students either looking at their iPhones or listening to the music stored on them. They only put them away when a friend sidles up to them and says ‘Ohayo!’ I have no doubt that much of their time at home is similarly spent on their electronic gadgets. To them the virtual world appears more engrossing than the real world. They would probably spend even more time on their gadgets if only the real world would stop impinging.
If these students could view themselves from outside they might conclude that, from a historical perspective, what they are doing is peculiar. Wouldn’t, for example, a young Viking have thought that chasing girls, plundering villages or even repairing a damaged long-boat was a better way of spending time than staring for hours on end at an electronic gadget? Wouldn’t anyone in their right minds think the same? In 2075, when these students are on their death beds, will some of them look back and ruefully reflect that they spent far too much time gazing at a tiny perspex screen instead of looking out at the world? Yet we rarely see ourselves from outside, or from the perspective of our future selves.
I would like to feel superior to these dreamers as my mobile phone is the most basic (no internet, no camera, usually not even switched on) and is only used in emergencies (“Can you get some bread on your way home?”). Yet I also often have my head stuck in either my computer, my Kindle, or I am lost in my own thoughts. So, no grounds for smugness there.
Like most people, I find the idea of a life spent in a dream world a waste. Even so, another part of me wonders what, if not looking at our iPhones, listening to our music and immersing ourselves in our own thoughts, we ought to be doing with our time. If all we are doing is seeking distraction, what is it we are distracting ourselves from?