Cell phone companies and Facebook are in the business of selling illusions. You actually don’t need anything they’re offering, but they’ve done a very good job of making it seem that their services are indispensible. About half of everyone I know has bought the myth that getting and staying connected is everything.
In the picture above, taken from a magazine advertisement for cell phone service, we see four girls out sightseeing. But the girl who’s having the most fun isn’t looking at the sights at all, because she’s talking to someone who isn’t even there. And she’s positively ecstatic compared to her unconnected friends. In fact, she’s literally writhing on the ground in ecstasy, even while she ignores the natural beauty in front of her. The message is clear. Nature is OK, and being in the here and now can be mildly amusing if that’s all you’ve got, but far better to talk to someone far away about what’s not happening to either of you.
It hasn’t been difficult for the providers to sell this concept because the target audience is already pre-sold. They’ve long ago accepted the idea that connectivity beats physical presence. Experience has taught them that illusions on small screens are preferable to seeing the real thing. In fact, the smaller the screen and the tinnier the audio, the more compelling it is. All their friends agree, and the younger you are, the more that matters.
This is what the Facebook community is like, as well. Instead of being with real people, users relate to their friends’ avatars. Now with the new Facebook smart phone application, you don’t need to bother to find a computer in order to be in constant contact with your Peeps. So even though the number of Facebook friends who are actually reading your posts may be small enough to count on your fingers and toes, the idea that, at least theoretically, anyone of Facebooks billions users could possibly be looking at what you’re about to eat for lunch is thrilling. No need to be alone anymore. That’s the miracle of connectivity!
The others three girls in the picture are trying their best to pretend to be unaware of their connected friend’s rapture, but you can bet as soon as they get home, they’ll demand that their parents buy them the best smart phone money can buy. And if they need to see a nature view, one will come up after a visual search, right there on their phone.