Where are they? Where are they trying to be? They’re absent, seemingly in a different realm. Always hectic, they’re leading screen lives, and their every-day reality is run by digital maximalism. Let me take you on a journey around New York City – the avatarville.
Do you remember those romantic scenes from movies, where two dogs get playfully at each other, and their owners try to pull them away, but end up attracting one other? Romantic comedies with happy ends. In reality, New Yorkers are very busy, and although they often have dogs, they lack the time to walk them. At least not on their own. Dog walker has become a pretty popular occupation. Americans are paying for having their dogs walked, but do they realize that at the same time, they remain on a leash themselves?
I work in the Internet industry, so I’m used to being constantly online, getting notifications and pervasive smartphones. Despite this, America managed to surprise me in this regard. Perhaps it was also because I was keeping a watchful eye on New Yorkers and their perpetual urge to be in several places at the same time, with hundreds of people carried around in a smartphone. New York City screen life is buzzing!
Ask Google for directions
They usually didn’t know I was taking pictures of them, because they were immersed in other worlds, with their heads bowed over displays. Staring at their screens, they don’t keep eye contact. Not only on subway, because this isn’t anything unusual in Warsaw or any other city with underground rail system, but also at cafes, restaurants, in the streets. They’re all lead by the contents of their smartphones. They stumble on stairs, because they can’t see them. When you ask for directions, they jump back, startled, as if they saw an alien. Why, these days, you ask Google about everything. Not the person standing next to you.
You have everything, except time
When I was in Little Italy, I asked a waiter, who’s never been to actual Italy, a rather trivial question:
– Do you like New York City?
– Oh, I love it!
– And what do you love it for?
– There’s everything here! You can do anything. You can do a different thing every day, follow any hobby, meet and get to know people. I love NYC!
I pondered over his answers for a bit and pressed on with my weird questions…
– You said, you can do anything here but that seems impossible. You only have 24h a day and have to make choices. You can’t do everything, can you?
– Yeah, you’re right. I work until 7 p.m. daily. But sky’s the limit here. I love my New York City!
Yes, it is indeed a city of unending opportunities. However, sometime, we’re so busy with browsing all the options offered by the world, that we miss the fact that… we don’t have enough time. We’re rushing, we’re running, and we’re loving New York City so much!
Lead by smartphones
Taking a step back and looking at New York City, you can get the impression that it’s an avatarville. The Big Apple dweller starter kit is comprised of a cup (coffee, tea, smoothie, whatever…) and a smartphone with headphones. If you lose coverage on the subway, you switch from Facebook or Instagram to games. Facebook seems to be most popular, though. Your own profile, preferably. Up and down, new likes, comments, up and down, rinse and repeat. Refresh. Maybe someone liked the status, or commented. Up and down.
Financial District means emails, or unending phone conversations. There’s always something to be done. To be read, to be shared. Someone to be stalked, even.
Hyperconnected – here they come.