Thursday, 16 October 2014

A short piece of fiction on the impact of the digital age.

"Doesn't this whole concept of the digital age captivate you?”

I concentrated on the sky above, allowing the ink-stained expanse to consume me. It glittered ferociously, speckled with infinite illuminating pinpricks of white light that cloaked our faces in an ambiguous glow.
Theo swiped his hair back. “Sometimes.” He cast his vision towards the blocks of flats towering protectively around us. “Just look at it all. What are there, 8 blocks of flats? And in each one, a thousand people?”

“About that I guess.” The high rise buildings shielded us from the outside city: meagre lights dancing through half-drawn blinds, televisions flickering onto bored faces.

He continued. “They each have their own story, their own anecdotes, their own lives. They each use aspects of the digital world constantly. So perhaps it’s just a natural progression, and not a phenomenon.”

"It’s just, people are so obsessed nowadays. We are hopelessly attached to each of our own rectangular metal comfort blankets. Do they really enhance our life, our opportunities? Why is it that the centre of our known universe is dependent on hunks of metal? Is it a good thing? I don’t know. I don’t know what to think any more Theo."

"We can’t stay in a time warp of crackly home-made wedding videos and neon leg warmers any more El. It’s convenient I suppose. We, as society, are moving forward, and so other things must too."

"But how did we end up at this point? This point, where the thin line between reality and technology blurs?"

The past 3 hours were a chaotic fog in my mind. We had started off the evening tube-hopping on a sporadic venture to a new creative café that some UAL students had told us about. With empty stomachs and hip flask of vodka between us, we had somehow bypassed our original plans and had instead tube-hopped spontaneously, laughing as we spun each other around and randomly struck a place on the tube map in dizzy oblivion: compulsive with drunken laughter.

Yet now, as we found ourselves in the intimidating confinements of a North London park, decorated with smashed glass and forgotten promises, we were jarred sober. As I looked around, I took my surroundings in. Initials etched into peeling climbing frames. The face of a small child illuminated by the moon in a window. A forgotten teddy bear perched onto a railing, bedraggled. 

The dull warmth from the flats, the smell of spices and stale beer and the cloak of cold air enamoured me. I felt around for Theo’s hand and held it. Held it with passion and gratefulness and threat. I held his hand: clammy with frost, and considered exactly why we were here. Why the universe spun on a singular centripetal force. Were we simply fillers in time? A means of greater experiment? Were our efforts in technology meagre, softened attempts of our parallel counterparts?

“People. Experiments. Education. I suppose we just did. But that's not the question. It is what we do with it. Do we do good in the world, or do we use it selfishly?”

Orla, who had been sitting in a haze of silent thoughts, looked up from behind her billowing red curls of hair, streaked with crispy autumnal flares of amber and orange. Out of the three of us, she was the one who sat removed, her eyes constantly cast down, although somehow evidently more innately aware of the world than the ordinary, involved and interested soul. She said little, but when spoken, her words were so powerful and profound that if spoken more, would be swept away in yet another wave of pointless chatter, meaningless.

“You know that moment when you’re partially asleep, and you’re just hit with this kind of utterly remote feeling. You feel like your bed is a child’s roundabout in a play park, in that half state of fear and profound happiness when you don’t know what else to do other than grasp the next child’s clammy hand and scream to be spun faster.”

Theo and I murmured a collective sound of encouragement.

She took a deep breath, and sat in a child’s swing, facing us.

“This whirlwind of emotion and feeling only lasts a millisecond but it feels like so much longer. It’s in that moment that you can decipher the world as containing two types of people. There are the people that feel this sensation and drift off to sleep without a problem. They wake up the next day, devour a bowl of organic muesli and set off to work in the city in their run of the mill four by four, the previous night’s antics dispersed into the back of their mind, never to be recovered. Those are the ones who live their lives in numbers, like the childhood pastime of paint by numbers. Systematic, structured, safe. But then you have the people who seek more. These are the explorers. The adventure seekers. They let that millisecond act as a barricade to sleep and spend the next four and a half hours attempting to recreate that feeling; in music, in words, and in art. Those are the ones forever seeking the silver lining buried in their dreams.”

She paused, and looked up. “And the thing is, everybody has access to the digital era. It is the numbered people who use it to their disadvantage. They do no good with it. No." She paused, entranced by her next train of thought. "It is the creatives. The experimenters. The adventurers. It is those who stay up into the early hours of the morning overwhelmed by the brilliantness of life and of technology. They are the people who are truly appreciative. Those are the ones who are, and will do good, with the digital age."

When a tsunami occurs, the water draws back miles from the beach and forms a huge wall of water. With indestructible force it charges forward, all at once clearing a determined path of utter destruction. Houses are destroyed. People are killed. Nothing remains the same.

And that was the impact that rippled out amongst the 2 of us. 10 seconds stretched out like the blurred line between the sea and the sky. All at once, like the wave charging towards its target, her words registered on our faces.

It was all that needed to be said. Every electrical impulse flowing through our wiry veins pulsated with her words. We did not need confirmation. We both knew, deep down, that from that point on, our actions would be of the latter. We would strive to do better in the world: to pour our flasks of procrastination down the sink and to re-fill them with ambition and thought, determination and electric enthusiasm. 

And so as we sat, perched on the children’s swings in a small park in North London, the phenomenon of the digital era seemed to be an inescapable reality. This small park was the present and the future: the fizzle of anxiety and the smell before it rains. It was the fascination of life and the thoughts of hope.

The sky: once smeared with black ink and glitter, awakened. Streaks of pink, gold, silver and blue stained it's once-dull canvas. Pink was the raw ambition. Gold was the beauty of rare oblivion. Silver was the silver lining of my thoughts. Blue was the icy awareness of life invading my cells. It was as though somebody was tipping me upside down and pouring the contents of my deepest thoughts into the whirlpool of the sky. I felt complete. I felt so unbelievably complete in a world that, stained with the colours of the future, seemed so chaotically diverse in the most righteousness way possible.

Our paths ahead were engraved with ambiguity. But our veins flowed with electricity: an electric desire to embrace the digital age: to succeed: to live well and to prove to our ancestors and beyond that we are not failures.

We are the future.


As the digital age is becoming an increasing reality, are traditional methods of life depreciating in sentimental value? Are we compromising our opportunities by going online? Or do you think that the digital age is a step in the right direction in regards to society? Be sure to either comment your thoughts or send me a tweet with your opinions and thoughts!

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