Why, I wondered, do I only notice Telescreens (the object itself, rather than what it is showing) when they are turned off? Looking up at the sleeping boxes as I enter the transport interchange, there was suddenly something more about their presence; they almost had a creepy presence as they hung above my head, and all the other heads on their way home. If they were switched on it would have been giving me information – what us humans gasp for, and can’t ignore, even if it bears no importance to our own endeavours.
Our lives are surrounded by screens. Something about the image on them, be it another humans or just simply text, has an authority over us. For example, just look at a conversation and how the communication going on in physical reality merely acts as an interval between the urge to get back to what really matters: text chatting on mobile phone screens. For another example, put a TV in a pub/bar and suddenly the place becomes like a theatre with a captive audience rather than a place for conversation.
But when the power goes off, we have these blocks and squares staring at us. And it feels really weird. It is as if our leader has abandoned us. “What the hell do we do now?” We can only hope they are switched back ASAP and that things get back to ‘normal’.
And still the screens advance! Barely any of us drive places without guidance from the sat-nav screen; we now read books on screens rather than carry real ones about; I also find myself feeling that my music player is incomplete if there isn’t the album sleeve of the currently playing artist beaming back at me as I stare down at it, whilst frantically clicking at its buttons (mind you, that’s also just a tactic because I’m scared of eye contact with the hyena-like gangs of teens running about in the transport interchange, to be rude to them and true to how they make me feel).
Ok, using screens in this way isn’t a bad thing on its own. It’s our growing dependency on them which is the concern, and it only seems to hit home when they are turned off, and we aren’t blindly (not literally of course!) obeying the information they give us. More than that, all this is run on finite energy, what will we do if we find no new way of powering it all and it stops? Will we do what Thom Yorke Suggested in ‘My Iron Lung’, “just hum”?