Idle Eye 117 : The Silence of the LANs

Way back in 1995, when Brian Eno unleashed his 3 1/4 second micro-ditty on the new Microsoft Windows startup, he unconsciously escalated the extinction of the human race. Bold, I know, but think about it: Ever since then, we have acclimatised ourselves to endless pings and pongs (none of which last long enough to be truly irritating, though still being the aural equivalent of nails down a blackboard), reminding us that an email is in, a lorry is reversing or the filter on your water softener needs changing. It’s the price we pay for living in an increasingly computerised world, where machines take the drudgery out of those tiny, mundane tasks we used to just do unthinkingly.

And now we are once again free. Free to linger twenty seconds longer when we put out the recycling, free to eat another bun before leaving for work, free to swap the ringtone from Coldplay to Kylie, and free to take the time to consider our freedom. And if we forget to do this there will always be another sonic nudge, composed by a teenage digital guru of whom we are supposed to have heard, denying us the luxury of our own free will. Silence has become the flaccid hangover of yesteryear, rather than an essential neutral space from which all ideas spring forth. And slowly, we are morphing into the cabbages we now have more time to chop:

BING BONG!!! Based on the median temperature taken in your area over the last eight months, it is an above average day outside. You will not be needing your walking boots or Echo & the Bunnymen trenchcoat.

SPLOSH!!! Based on nocturnal activities over the last twelve hours, we suggest you hang on to whatever fluids you have available. However, immediate release of solids is recommended to facilitate motion of any kind.

QUACK QUACK!!! This light-hearted alarm call suggests that you have an amusing, alternative persona and would be fun to go out with of an evening. You, and 15,000,000 others just like you.

UUURRR UUURRR!!! No, it’s not an air raid. Time to call your mother.

FWHO-HOO-HOO HOO-HOO!!! Somebody you’ve never heard of has just texted you on the train. Either that, or you are shit at whistling.

All these little intrusions incrementally chip away at our ability to act for ourselves. We know this and accept it without resistance. In time, we will inevitably become pathetic, dependant amoebas, like die-hard listeners to the Radio 4 comedy slot, hopelessly reliant on whatever dross is out there yet powerless to affect any meaningful change. Ironically, we do have the ultimate say: By turning off our devices, flipping our laptops onto silent and taking the reins of our lives for once. By denying the fat controllers of our local area networks the autonomy they so desperately seek by merely flicking a switch. But we don’t. Because they haven’t made an app for it yet.

Idle Eye 115 : The Tinder

It has been suggested to me by a colleague (who shall remain nameless) that I should ‘have a go on the Tinder.’ Now, not being at all worldly in these matters, I presumed it was the sort of thing that men of a certain age bragged about in the pubs of the North when they had illegally bagged a massive rabbit or somesuch:

“I’m on t’Tinder”
“Aye, champion. Bring it round back after hours. And mind it’s skinned and scrubbed first”

But, turns out, it means nothing of the kind. Apparently, ‘having a go on the Tinder’ is a handy way for the young people to meet up and exchange fluids without all the bother of actually having to talk to each other. Which does indeed seem splendid, if any of the monosyllabic displays of syntax I have been witness to of late are anything to go by. What is less clear is why said colleague would imagine, in her wildest dreams, that this is the vehicle for me. Painstaking research has revealed that, whilst being quite the thing for some no-strings How’s Your Father, the demographic comes in at a terrifying 27 years young, and these people are circling around you like ravens over roadkill. Surely I need an app to keep them at bay, for Christ’s sake?

But cast your minds wide open. Imagine, if you will, that I accept this noxious challenge. That I Right-Swipe a cute little thing in a gingham dress who is cool with my involuntary farting and wants to meet up. And let’s say that we do so at a neutral space of her choosing: The Chelsea Hospice for the Critically Insane. Gingerly, I spy her at the kiosk in the foyer and, plucking up courage, I make my move:

“Err…Hello! Thanks for coming in. Are you on the Tinder?”
“Nan, there’s one for you ‘ere. Take your teeth out.”

And it is precisely the potential for this brutal, on-site humiliation that I think it unlikely I shall be adopting the Tinder for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, if these clearly adept tech wizards can come up with something posthumous, or approaching it, we could have some kind of dialogue (although I currently take my lunch break in Brompton Cemetery, which may well create its own unique set of problems – Any kind of romantic liaison with those who have ‘made the journey’ will almost certainly be frowned on in these litigious times). So, in short, I am doomed.

I know what this looks like. That I am poo-pooing any chink in the armour of despair the young have to leapfrog themselves towards a brighter future. Not so. By all means, roger yourselves senseless with whatever tools you have to hand: I salute you in all your endeavours. All I ask is that you don’t involve me, pitiful ambassador of debauchery that I would almost certainly be. But I figure you already know that.