First off, have I…have I not done a technophobia rant on this blog? I assumed I must have and was going to skip my intro “technophobia is bad” argument because obviously anyone reading this has heard it. Except…apparently I don’t have a tag for that here yet and at a quick glance can’t find anywhere I would have talked about it. Huh. So, short version.
I love technology and I’m a huge proponent of using it more, not less. Introducing it to kids as soon as they can physically hold a phone if not sooner. Ending stigma about being on our phones. Abolish “tech sabbaths.”
(Ok I have become much more accepting of that last one and I’ve even grown to understand that a lot of the disagreement here comes from the fact that I use tech very differently from how many of my friends do. Reading some things from people who actually take tech sabbaths makes me think “oh goodness, you really do need to step back.” I’m not into telling other people how they should be using tech or whether they need a break from it, I just want to be clear it’s not something we all find beneficial.)
A frequent argument I had in seminary revolved around the “realness” of internet based church and the desire many of my classmates had to embrace current technology while fearing that doing so would somehow take away from the soul of the church. Ugh.
This is an argument that’s come up again since I went to my first ever “real” (as opposed to church/school) concert back in October. It was to see my favorite band, and the tour was announced a couple of days after a thing went around facebook asking about bands people had seen live. My answer was basically “none, no desire, but if Fall Out Boy ever does a concert near me I would love to go to that.” It was like a sign! So I saved up money for weeks and pounced on the tickets, terrible terrible seats, I mean the very back row, as soon as they were available. I was so excited it was all I could talk about, and I had to wait for months.
Here’s some things I learned about concerts. 1, they’re super amazing and exciting and there’s this feeling of connection and joy and belonging I haven’t felt anywhere else. 2, they are LOUD. 3, related, they are sensory nightmares. I had a terrible headache before the first opening act even really started performing, and there were two opening acts. Once FOB actually took the stage, all of us were on our feet and it was incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but things suddenly got even more overwhelming as the people next to me got right up in my space and kept bumping up against me. Cue lots of anxiety and multiple times I almost lost my balance and felt like I was going to topple over the seat in front of me.
I have trouble paying attention to movies in theaters. If there’s a fast or busy action scene, forget it. I’m just not going to be able to process anything that happens during it. Usually I have to watch things I saw in a theater two or three times before I actually pick up on enough details that it makes sense. There’s just too much going on, both on the screen and in the room around me.
So I took pictures. And even (gasp!) some video. Just short snippets. Not something to share anywhere else, and certainly not focusing enough on the camera that it would be fair to say I wasn’t “present” in the moment. The pics are kind of terrible, the video moves all over the place, it’s all a bit unfocused because I wasn’t looking at it. I was looking at a band that got me through really rough times in my life and trying to take in an experience I didn’t expect to ever have again and that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully process in the moment, so I could look at it later and remember, pick up on little things I missed when my favorite singer in the world sang one of my favorite songs and all I could think was “WOW.”
It was for me. It’s a part of how I personally experience things and how I make up for what I recognize are deficits in the ways I experience things because of my sensory processing issues. And unlike the band, I paid to be there and it is a unique experience and I think I have a right to do what I need to do to make the most of that experience. So when I hear things about bands and other performers hating phones, complaints that people aren’t really experiencing what they paid to see, etc, it hurts. They’re missing the point and dismissing my needs and experiences and worst of all, they’re making me feel guilty. I love this band. Really, really love them. I want them to be happy and I want them to understand how much they mean to some of us, how my life is better because of them, and it hurts a lot to think that if they could even see me waaaaayyyy way up there in the cheap seats the takeaway they get might be “ugh, why are they even here if they’re not paying attention?”
Cue news this week that Jack White has actually banned phones on his upcoming tour. And given all the sorts of reasons I referenced above about being present in the moment and such. Bleh.
He has no idea how hard it is for me to fully experience something in the moment with that much going on. Few people do. They’re not trying to hurt me, they’re not even thinking about me. I know that.
But it’s just really frustrating how far we still have to go in getting people to understand other experiences, in educating people about how great tech can be. There are so many conversations to be had and so much translation that needs to happen because our experience of the same technology is obviously completely different. It’s a lot of work. I’m up for it, but it’s still a lot.
And in the meantime, I just have to keep getting reminded on a regular basis that the ways I engage with the world look wrong and soulless to most people, to people I care about and want to interact with. And it means that sometimes, I’m going to choose to put the phone away and be less present than I could be, experience less of what’s important, because I don’t want to offend those people. And I can’t help but wonder if they’ll ever show me the same consideration.