During second semester of 2012 and the first semester of 2013 I lived in Bogota, Colombia on exchange. Coming from country New South Wales and having only been in Brisbane 18 months before I left for South America, returning to Australia’s “new world city” feels strange. I feel like I’m in the future. Home is always where mum is but, if you asked me where home is right now, I honestly don’t know – Brisbane feels just as weird and foreign now as Bogota did.
There was a lot of changes while I was away. Suddenly, every man and his dog has a beard and a 50’s crew cut, and thinks they’re edgy for it. I don’t know where those ridiculous short-sleeve button-up shirts came from either – you know, the ones with weird patterns that said newly-bearded men like to button up all the way. Pay wave didn’t exist before I left and it still freaks me out, as do touch-pad EFTPOS machines. But the most striking change is that everyone – everyone – has smart phones. People had smart phones before I left too, and they do exist in Colombia, but now it seems I’m the very last person in the world with a phone with buttons on it. A few weeks back, a kid in one of my classes told me having a “retro” phone like mine must be a great tool for “picking up chicks”. Lots of people stare when I pull it out, and some even comment to say “I only just made the switch, I held out as long as I could”. I’ve had a lot of hippies empathising with me and a lot of people sending me this video of Louis C.K. saying that going for a phone every time you feel the overwhelming sadness of existence coming over you stops you from being truly sad, and therefore truly happy. That’s what’s happened while I was away – not having a smart phone has become a statement, even if you don’t want it to be.
I don’t care about people always being on their smartphones and missing things like a guy wielding a gun on a train – it’s their loss and their own stupid fault if that’s how they’re going to spend their waking lives. And I don’t care about the hippies “making a stand” against the unstoppable march of technology and connectivity into every aspect of our lives – I remember everyone’s parents railing about their kids texting when we all first got phones, and I’m sure there were traditionalists bemoaning the loss of “the good old days” when people started using carrier pigeons. I’m not making a statement. It’s just that every time I try to use a phone that you have to drag your finger around the screen to use, I simply can’t make it work. I’m being left behind because I can’t adapt to technology and while that’s all well and good for the hippies, I need to make a change.
During the hopeful, not-too-violent opening rumblings of the Arab Spring a couple of years back I remember watching the Twitter feed of a freelance journalist driving through Sana’a, Yemen, tweeting everything she saw, broadcasting practical information for anyone in the city and providing a real-time account of history being made for the rest of us all around the world. Only a couple of years later, she’d now be able to upload video, take photos and provide her anaylsis of what’s going on at the same time. Pardon my French, but that shit is amazing. I’ll have one of those evil little suckers soon enough, just don’t expect me to be hovering over that pale blue light every waking moment.