The End of the Great Escape
While reading Angela Carter’s very fabulous ‘Wise Children’ recently, I was struck by a phrase lightly used that really dated the book and exemplified how different the world is now, thanks to technology. When Uncle Peregrine’s wanderlust overwhelms him, he sets off on his travels and for extended periods, completely disappears from their lives. The only clues they have as to his whereabouts are crates of well-rotted exotic fruits and broken china that didn’t survive the transit from far-flung parts of the world. The world in ‘Wise Children’ is a vast place, one you can get lost in, and be off the radar for months at a time.
Social Media has taken the mystery and distance away from travel. Facebook allows us to experience every moment of our friends adventures, sometimes in meticulous detail – do we really need to see a picture of a hotel towel decoratively folded into some semblance of a disconsolate pony on the bed by a creatively frustrated housekeeper? Or the picture of someone’s usual dinner replaced by the picture of their more exotic holiday fayre? I’m as guilty as the next person of this kind of thing – it is social media, after all, but it does bother me. Bring back the postcard, I say.
There is no longer any escape from other people’s escape and that saddens me. With a constant real-time stream of information, catching up with friends becomes a redundant activity. Also, does this expectation to upload and update everything make us spend more time as spectators and archivists of our lives rather than participants. New experiences get collected and collated before we do any of the actual experiencing.