What I’m about to write isn’t really about design. Or maybe it is; I haven’t decided yet. What it most definitely is about is perspective. As in, we’ve lost it. It is this lost—or maybe just general lack of—perspective that originally frustrated me as a design student. I guess not much has changed.
With Apple’s recent release of the iPad, and now the iPhone 4, I find myself once again turning sour on humanity, against our excessive consumption, against our getting caught up in whatever is new and shiny and sparkly. I’m amazed—and kind of appalled—at how much time people spend talking about these new products, as if they’re some kind of vital life force.
It’s not my intent to get righteous about belongings; I have a couple nice things of my own. But when I think about an iPhone, its pervasiveness, and the fact that bazillions (yes, I said bazillions) of current iPhone users will continue to buy the latest and greatest model—I have to ask: What does it really do? And I guess if this post has anything to do with design, here it is:
What does the iPhone really do that makes it so necessary?
In my casual observance of its use, I’d say what makes it so great to its owners is that it gives them 24/7 access to the internet—and likely—to tell the world what they think, via Twitter or Facebook, for instance. Huh. Just as I wrote the previous sentence, I had a little epiphany of sorts: the iPhone allows people to feel connected to something. To have someone to talk to when no one is around. To communicate their thoughts to everyone, or no one, or the universe, or whatever. Huh.
So tell me this: How much new technology does it take to reconnect a bunch of humans who are excessively disconnected from one another? I ask this question because we humans have designed ourselves into this scenario. And now it almost seems we’re trying to design our way out of it. It blows my mind.
I am a user of both Twitter and Facebook, but I’m not currently an iPhone user. Maybe someday I will be; I’m not sure. It’s not that I’m automatically opposed to new technology, nor to our new methods of communication. But I occasionally get a bit disturbed by the lack of substance and the lack of real human connections that, in my opinion, are at least partially inspired by our über “connectivity.” We are digital and electronic phantoms—constantly connected, but in a fantastically disconnected way.
Excessive discussion about the state of our technologically inspired communication seems somewhat futile. It is what it is. But being a Twitter user has allowed me to bear way too much witness to how people react when a new “toy” is released. Basically, Twitter goes nuts whenever Apple releases a new product, or makes any kind of significant change to a current product. In that sense, the designers at Apple are controlling us like the brainless robots we apparently are. Dangling a shiny new toy in front of us, making us salivate, making us numb ourselves to the reality of the human condition with a new piece of technology to get excited over.
Am I the only one who finds this disturbing? Am I the only one who sees it this way? Am I reading too much into this? Am I asking pointless questions? Should I just buy a damn iPhone?