i-Cave, By Plato

I appreciate the internet and all the “i’s”—pad and pod and phone and watch. I like not having to worry about the actor-name, or the contours of the political scandal; it’s all right there. But I DO worry about where we all are and what we’re doing. To each other. To ourselves.

The woman who left the Uber car gazed at her phone, trying to determine which way to walk to the restaurant that was six steps away. The always-there gaggle of tourists on the corner, stand with heads hovering over screens. Every second pedestrian walks with a screen attached to both eyeballs. At restaurants and theatres and concerts, too. All sure their screen is more essential, and certainly more entertaining; that access to their individual personal universe is essential.  iWorry.

I’ve given up wanting to suggest they raise their heads and take in what’s going on in what I seem to remember we used to call Real Life. The ScreenBeans’ e-Reality is, it seems, very potent. And that’s not even factoring in gaming and avatars and Facebook and the Twittersphere. And if you don’t know what you’re missing (“Did you see that sunset?” “Did you see what was walking down the street?”) then, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, prisoners are chained inside facing a blank wall; all they can see are shadows, to which they assign names and believe the shadow play is the only reality. I won’t go so far as Plato, who suggested that philosophy was the only way to get unchained. But don’t you think, a block at a time, 30 minutes in a restaurant at a time, we might look across the table and say, “Hi!” or just watch the sunset and treasure the watching time without wondering how the picture will look on an iPhone? Are we watching shadows on the new iCave, by Plato?