| The other day at work I received a phone message from the boyfriend of a young lady who works for us stating that she wouldn't be into work that day because she had been in a car accident. After I was assured that she was not injured I was told that her car was totaled and she was too shook up to come to work. Naturally, I was concerned and told the boyfriend that we fully expected her to stay home and take it easy. No one should have to work when they are in a car accident bad enough to destroy a car.
Five minutes after I spoke with the boyfriend another young lady employee walked into the store and asked us if we had heard about the accident. I was amazed. The accident had occurred only a half hour earlier and she already knew about it. I did not realize that the two girls were close enough so that one would call the other so soon after a major incident.
“Did she call you?” I asked the second young woman.
“No, she posted a picture of her car on facebook,” she answered. “You should see it. It is completely totaled.”
I had to think about that for a minute. A young woman no older than 19 gets in a serious accident that leaves her way too traumatized to go to work but she still has the where with all to post a picture of the car on facebook using her phone just minutes after it happens. Seriously? Did she post it sitting in the back of the ambulance through her frightened tears? Her boyfriend had not been in the car with her so he couldn't have done it. The group of young people who work for me assured me that posting an instant picture of one's crumpled car on facebook mere minutes after a bad accident was not only plausible, but to be expected. I was flabbergasted. I've been in a bad accident and been shaken up and frankly, right afterwards I couldn't have stuck a post it note on my own forehead with any hope of accuracy much less take a photograph and go through the steps to send it whizzing through the electronic ether to my facebook page. It wouldn't have even occurred to me to try. I am pretty sure my mind was on other things at the time.
Obviously, I am old and hopelessly out of the loop. I don't even own a cell phone. When people ask me if I have a smartphone I usually respond that I don't even have a stupid one. I frequently get looks which reflect the same amazement they would feel if I told them I didn't have indoor plumbing. How do I survive without a smartphone? It is beyond their comprehension.
I can't help feeling that all this posting and tweeting and twittering and instagraming cannot help but diminish rather than enhance experience. It is almost as if our lives are being reduced to representations of themselves, like snapshots on a wall. The experience itself seems to be less meaningful than the recording of it. Our entire lives will soon be photoshopped and reality will become more and more distorted and subjective with each experience. Ultimately, what we do not or cannot record will fade into fiction or just cease to exist, and that 15 minutes of fame that we all seem to passionately desire will become the biggest fantasy of all. After all, can fame be called fame if everyone has it? Perhaps that is why there seems to be a trend of people displaying more and more extreme behavior off all kinds, including violence. Infamy is fine so long as everyone knows your name.
Back in the day we used to make jokes about people who would invite you over to their house for a party and then subject you to endless slides of their summer vacation until you were willing to chew off your own arm to escape. Now, if you are linked into the social network you are subjected to pictures of their summer vacations, their tedious bouts of neurosis, what they had for dinner, and even their car accidents on a regular basis. It is kind of like some shameless, sharing free for all with an orgy of information that is often both tedious and embarrassing. Reveal all, share all, hold nothing back, go for it! I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally don't think my life is exciting enough for unedited sharing. I get tired of my own summer vacation photos.
In the future the only reality will be that which cannot be posted somewhere. Deathbed confessions and final messages will cease to exist unless they can be tweeted. I am currently working on something to say as my last and final words that will be much longer than 140 characters. Tweet that, y'all.