Not smartphone apps as in ‘applications’ — we’re talking apps as in ‘appendages.’ I.e. you and me. (Have a look at this earlier story for more on Homo app.)
I’ve just come across three-year-old story notes on a remote corner of my hard drive. I have a character on the skytrain considering the merely absent presence of the other passengers. One advantage of living in Bangkok, he has always believed, are the rich opportunities for people-watching. But it has become harder to while away the time characterizing the specimens he encounters in the urban wild. There’s a dreary sameness about people in thrall to digital gadgetry, these zombies drowning in their smartphone screens.
So my character instead has a go at categorizing his fellow travelers, and here’s the closest he comes to a typology.
Dopamine-dipping gamers peck away like experimental pigeons.
Meanwhile others, the prima donnas in the crowd, smirk and mug as they scroll through interminable social media posts, apparently performing for some audience, maybe the zombies and dopamine addicts, though these types never look up from their screens. Never mind. The narcissists remain pleased as jasus at all the love their machines are channeling, probably messages from rock stars and suchlike.
Finally (it’s a short typology), you see an equivalent number of proles, people who don’t even pretend they’re chatting with a rock star, yet never stop pwoyt-pwoyting at their devices.
“Yeah, yeah,” says Sara. “This character of yours is behind the times, that’s all. Just like you. Plus you’re telling me you never look at your own smartphone?”
Okay, so I look at my phone from time to time. But this impulse is always moderated by the thought I might thereby miss something in the ‘real’ world. For example right now I spot one exotic specimen who falls outside our typology. Wedged into the corner of the skytrain carriage, this renegade is holding a book, never mind it’s a volume of Japanese manga cartoons and even then it may be only an affectation. In fact he’s wearing headphones and his eyes are closed. It’s hard to know what it is he’s doing.
… Holy cow, look at the time! I wanted to add other gadget-app species to our taxonomy, but I got sidetracked by LINE and email and stuff.
“Say again?” Sara’s smile kind of resembles a smirk.
In thrall now and then: Plus ça change
Businessmen on train (from the Independent).