Welcome to the Emo-tivation Decade

Tracey Barnett ©November 2009

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to Twitter about it—who the hell cares?

Obviously, only the guy with some battery life left on his iPhone.

That is bound to be the post mortem question of this iDecade. Good riddance.

Like sugared-up toddlers finding our new legs, we’ve spent the last ten years virtually careening around the Ethernet trying to connect, connect, connect.

The Olympic athlete stands on the award podium with his cell phone like its a phone booth, while Ashton Kutcher celebrates his one millionth Twitter follower as if he’d just won a Gold because the entire world can now view a hotel room picture of his wife’s bum.

We’re so thrilled by the novelty of connecting through social media that the depth and value of private experience has gotten swallowed up like an unattractive burp—and we’re too technologically immature to notice.

The defining moment of the last ten years wasn’t Bush reading “The Pet Goat” to a bunch of kids on 9/11 while New York was burning, or the Hadron Collider finally producing its first bang this week.

I fear the true essence of this decade was captured in four minutes of a flash mob video of 20,000 perfectly syncopated bouncing Oprah fans “spontaneously” erupting in a choreographed dance to a Black Eyed Peas performance in the middle of Chicago’s main thoroughfare. [www.traceybarnett.co.nz/favs.htm]

Can you imagine the thousands upon thousands of tweets, texts, and Facebook entries that must have surged through laptops, Blackberrys, iPhones, and yes, even old fashion desktop computers, to get 20,000 strangers to show up to collectively learn a dance for the opening of the Oprah Show?

There was Oprah, jumping up and down, “surprised” “shocked” and “thrilled” as the dance spread first from one person, then through the crowd like a huge wave, as if 20,000 people had just presented their Celebrity Goddess with a puppy that doesn’t poop.

In truth, it was astonishing, the perfect harmonic convergence of celebrity worship, social media management, old-time television and live performance, all driven by the insatiable, big bucks commercial lust for viewer eyeballs.

Like it or not, this is who we have become—the decade of Emo-tivation—where nothing is worth feeling or doing unless it is Twittered, texted, or reality televised.

This is the proud decade that has given us a website where you can track the location of people having sex in real time all over the world. Not to be outdone, there is now an iPhone app to measure your own sexual prowess in bed—as it’s happening. Call me old fashioned, but if you’re typing into your computer during intercourse and trying to scream passionately into a cell phone, wouldn’t that deflate one’s sexual prowess score just a smidge? Remember when it was just the two of you in bed—last century?

Sure, this was the decade of cloud computing, but nobody looks at the real thing floating by anymore unless your mate sends his photo to your iPhone.

Everyone is so excited about the invention of this new “convergence” wheel to make the hamster run faster, we haven’t really tweaked why we’re running. It’s just so damned engaging to see everything spin. But what we are losing in this race is how to value the experience of the interaction once you get there. It’s getting tough to appreciate a singular personal moment when you can have a million anonymous people following you digesting a pie on Twitter.

It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million. Facebook got there in just 24 months, according to Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s now infamous “Did You Know” series. To put this in perspective, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter didn’t even exist at the start of this decade.

I can be patient. We’re bound to outgrow this over-sized hyper-connectivity lust. I’ll be the really edgy, new advocate for two people just sitting in a room talking—because that’s all it needs to be sometimes.

Sorry Oprah, but if I had to vote, perhaps the most fittingly ironic close of this decade is a small story that will never be remembered. This week a Belgian man who had been comatose for over two decades was found to be conscious all along, paralysed in a seemingly vegetative state since a car crash at age 20. His 73-year-old mother never gave up hope. It took 23 years for somebody to finally notice that he could move his foot slightly to answer yes or no.

Maybe we should ask him about the true value of personal connectivity in a decade that is so busy opening networks, we’ve forgotten why.


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