Jul 05, 2012|
After nursing a shoulder injury and enjoying the resultant sympathy for a number of weeks, my friends and family have abandoned me for greener pastures (i.e. YouTube videos) and I'm left writing this column on a BlackBerry. That's OK because I hate everyone—I mean, I'm very supportive of their YouTube video watching—and because this week's column is on BlackBerries. Actually I should say it's on smartphones since BlackBerry seems to be in its nine-month-long death rattle, which is both true and earns me HK$100 since I bet my editor I couldn't use "death rattle" in a column in a non-disruptive way.
The world loves smartphones but Hong Kong LOVES smartphones in a weird, jealous boyfriend kind of way. Emails, texts, iChat, Facebook, Google Chat, BBMs, and WhatsApp take up more of my time than anything else—and you may have the same experience. To be honest, that's fine: look elsewhere for the luddite column bemoaning tech and the rise of the virtual self at the expense of the atomization of your real relationships. I promise you there are hundreds of articles out there. What I think is interesting is not the death of "real friendships" but rather how it changes our experience with ourselves.
"I think a lot" is a statement normally spoken by insecure, stupid people along with "I'm a spiritual person" and "Inception was really, really deep," but l would like to say: I think a lot. Mostly about how to get more Twitter followers, but whatever. My thoughts are quick and sporadic with resultant actions more gut-based than analytical, which I guess makes me more like George W. Bush than Obama so... that's too bad. But accurate. I would argue that it's harder to develop a thought in 2012 than in 1912—we have access now to so much more information, but we have less time to understand that thought and its implications.
Case in point: taxis. Taxis are my bread and butter. I'm far too lazy to walk anywhere and the MTR is apparently full of screaming people and kung fu fighters, according to YouTube videos of Hong Kong people freaking out in various transportation zones. I taxi to work, home, LKF, and to Ikea, which are basically the only places I go. The taxi is my zen zone: I ruminate on the day and what I want to do in my life besides passing through the Wyndham traffic jam and getting drunk.
At least that used to be the case (not the drunk part—that's still the case). Over the past few years, my taxi has become a multimedia zone. I play Angry Birds, watch sports highlights, send tweets and message sarcastic ideas to friends. I do basically everything but think. I mean, I try to, but playing Words With Friends is quite a bit more seductive than Yalun life planning with myself. Is this a good thing? No. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, especially since most of my thoughts are terrible (I told the head of Ogilvy social media about my idea for an automatic tampon machine and was uninvited to future parties) but it does make me think differently. Subtlety and nuance are out; bold, unresearched statements are in. You know how 72 percent of statistics are made up on the spot? It's like that with everything in my life now.
So my only suggestion to myself, and maybe to you, is to consider thinking a little bit more. Put the phone away for a few hours once a week and come up with an original idea. It may be terrible (ask me about my idea for a casino plane where you fly for free), but at least it's yours.
Yalun Tu is a columnist for HK Magazine. You can reach him at email@example.com or @yaluntu on Twitter.