I’ll Show You What’s Trending…

I was folding laundry, as that seems to be one of only three or four things I am doing these days, while listening to Pandora. I love to put on my favorite playlists and just let the music play, some songs I know, others I don’t but grow to love all the same. I’ve had a few playlists that I’ve been curating for years, Magic! Radio tends to play A LOT of reggae and that got me really into Bob Marley; Gaga Radio plays everything I want to hear when I’m feeling like a white girl; Cher Radio used to be the best in diva vocal jams until I made the mistake of liking Celine Dion’s “Beauty and The Beast” and now Disney music creeps in. I was listening to Amy Winehouse Radio while folding and letting Etta, Nora, Amy, and others take me on a feelings journey. It was great!

As happens when you’re not willing to fork over money just to silence ads, intermittent commercials selling new homes in Dripping Springs, cars in Round Rock, and tacos all over Austin kept ringing out between soulful John Legend tracks. One commercial caught my attention as I was putting folded towels away, and feeling more accomplished as the chore was getting done. I couldn’t tell you what the commercial was about, but a woman was talking about all of us doing things “we know we shouldn’t”, like creeping on your ex’s Instagram. She was talking in a coy, wouldn’t-you-like-to-know tone of voice. “Of course I’ve done that!” I thought as she went on to peddle her wares of which I had no interest in. Chewing on that thought a bit longer as I threw bundled socks into their correct drawers (yes, Aasim, I made sure that your gym socks went to your drawer and not mine!), it led me to thinking about the social media obsession that can turn dark that I wrote about the other day. #iamingrid

I was then reminded of an interaction I had that I think explains everything that is wrong, can go wrong, and will eventually go wrongest of all in the future, about our society…

Last summer, I was on a plane headed back from Michigan after a day-and-a-half trip to the far north of a state I never knew I would want to visit. I was separated from my traveling group and had to sit in the far back of the plane — actually, I almost didn’t make the plane because the person who booked all the tickets forgot to book mine apparently until the last minute, and I was on super standby about to be stranded in Detroit, but I’m not bitter. I sat behind a woman and her two kids. (I can make that assumption because the two kids looked like carbon copies of their mother). The woman was young-ish, most likely early thirties. She was clearly trendy based on the carry-on bag she had tucked under the seat in front of her, and her outfit looked like it was peeled out of a magazine. She had flashy, platinum blond hair — like Daenyres level white minus the purple eyes. Her clone children were no older than three or four, not babies, but still young to be on a plane. She sat on the aisle and they occupied the seemingly oversized inside seats. (My fat behind on the other hand grunted as I plopped down and wedge my love handles between the two plastic machetes serving as arm wrests).

The flight was a quickie from Detroit to Nashville, where most of the plane would disembark and the rest of us would stay aboard as more people got on, they refueled and shipped us back to ATX. Despite the quickness of the flight, however, it didn’t take long for Daenyres’s children to start crying. Babies on a plane, they’re as reliable as third degree burns in a house fire; you know they’re coming, and you know they’re going to hurt, but once you’ve strapped in, you can’t avoid them. They cried, and shrieked, kicked, and yelled “Help, Mommy!”. She attended to them as a trendy mom would by softly trying to console them with odds and ends out of her flashy bag. Sitting — excuse me — squatting between two oversized people in the rear of the plane felt sorry for this mom who had to want to rip her hair out but only didn’t because it would disturb her look. I reached into my bag, where I always keep gum — I’m as reliable as third degree burns in a house fire, too! I thought to offer some to the young mother, traveling apparently alone from one medium-sized American city to another with screaming offspring, it was a nice thing to do.

As I leaned forward prepared to tap her on the shoulder and offer, I played out how grateful she’d be that I took notice and didn’t blame her for all of the trouble; and then I imagined how gleefully silent the children would be. The little girl starting crying again as I reached forward, but before I tapped the mother’s shoulder, I stopped mid-reach. The grunt next to me gave me a weird look. I went from feeling empathetic to exasperated. I noticed that while her kids began to scream again in unison, she was staring at her phone. She was playing Candy Crush…

She one-handed swiped with a precision and dexterity that only a longtime player could use. I saw her reach over and gently pat her son on the arm, never breaking her gaze on the phone. Her daughter had slithered in her seatbelt so that he was laying down on the seat, arching her back up as an inconsolable temper tantrum set in. Her face was beet red, and her brother was howling while clutching his ears. Their mother advance to the next level and swiped some loose strands of white hair out of her face. I sat back with the wind knocked out of me and ordered a rum and coke. The kids in front of me kept wailing, so I ordered another. By the time we landed, they had cried themselves into a haze, she had gotten through what looked like nine or ten levels, and I drank myself dizzy.

We’re obsessed with our phones. With social media, with games, with the vibe, the filter, the look. We can literally tune out our own sobbing children to swipe back and forth unappetizing-looking candy. We’re lost in the hold of social media, but, at this point, can we get out? I talked last time I wrote about this about how stalkers and creeps have far more information with which to follow us around. In the broader sense, are we tuned out to what’s actually happening — and I don’t mean this in a pithy, philosophical sense, I mean as in impending doom! Are we already on the path to the robot apocalypse but don’t even know it?! Probably, but at least no one will beat your Candy Crush record…oh wait.

I’m the biggest hypocrite as far as that’s all concerned, I live on my phone. I take pictures of my food, I tweet about what I’m watching, and I share moving videos that make a broader point about a topic I have an opinion on but no experience working in. I follow likes, shares, new followers, and mentions like any caricatured airhead teenager, but I’m aware of it. I know a lot of people are, but I think about Daenyres and her screaming little dragons. Did she even know that by ignoring her children that she was teaching them to zone out and “check in”? Maybe, but then again maybe not. If commercials on Pandora can talk about us having “guilty pleasures” like checking and ex’s Instagram (and inevitably spiraling for an hour or two asking rhetorical questions about who they’re with, what they’re doing, what’s so funny), then I think we’re all doomed to miss life as it passes us by.

Who cares if North Korea launches an H-bomb our way? We won’t know what hit us until it does…too bad too, we won’t even have time to let it trend before we burn up.
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