Part 1. Summer
I found myself bored a lot this summer. Friends that were all abroad, weeks of rain and single life forced me to stay inside. ‘This summer will be my creative revival’, living life to the fullest, creating art and music, seeing hundreds of films and finally finish watching Twin Peaks. Or at least so I thought. 9AM. My alarm rang. As usual I was hungover from the night before. My phone and an old vape offered a seemingly innocent and calm start to my day. What’s the harm of 5 minutes of kitten videos anyways? But five minutes turned into ten, turned into thirty. Suddenly it was noon already. What?! I never remembered Youtube to be this addictive! I’m not like one of those vidiots (video idiots) am I? Then it struck me: I had walked straight into the open arms of capitalism (I’m addicted to kitten shorts). But though capitalism is an exciting topic, I feel like bashing it in front of our audience is like beating a dead horse. We need to discuss scrolling addiction.
Youtube was actually one of the last social media platforms to introduce a scrolling style interface after the success of TikTok. All other major platforms have adopted the interface in one way or another (except for Twitter, not coincidentally used by everyone except for Gen Z). For those that have been disconnected: Tiktok works by dropping a load of shit in front of you and utilises an algorithm to pinpoint which shit you like more than other shit. The shit-sorting-algorithm has however proved to be so successful that the whole cash-grabbing entertainment industry went all-in on the addictive interface. A mere 5 minutes of kitten videos was brutally interrupted by a YouTube Short about noodles.
I was aware of my mobile addiction, I always assumed I was more of an face-to-face guy, I removed TikTok to avoid soul sucking moments on the app, yet all other apps have the same interface nowadays. I never expected to turn into that guy. Endless and mindless scrolling made its way into my life. I was not alone. Tiktok counts 1.1 billion active users each day1. Simultaneously, the amount of books read by teens per year has been declining steadily for years due to time lost to social media. But in all honesty, I can’t blame just TikTok for it.
Part 2. Autumn
Besides mobile phones causing an obvious discrepancy between the modern day and Hemingway’s 20th century Pamplona, there is blame to be found within architecture as well. Have I really forgotten about Hemingway’s way of living? Yes. But with the nearest Coffee Company being a 35 minute metro ride away, as a suburbanite I barely have a choice. There is no good leisure activity within a walkable radius. As a result, I am bound to my phone as the only activity. Fable is that people enjoy being on TikTok. Fact is that they barely have anything better to do in the McMansion that eliminates any sensory stimulation. 'Americans today are rarely willing to walk more than a block or two'2, but the café is on average 4.2 kilometres away by car.3 No wonder they are obese.
Part 3. Winter
We live in an ever narrowing world, until finally it reaches the size of a phone screen
In my opinion, the suburb was made possible due to three inventions: the car, the supermarket and the television. The car overcame the logistical challenge of sprawling homes over an enormous area. The low density of the suburb meant that the commercial sector could not thrive. The solution to this is the supermarket. One place to serve all your needs. It is for this reason that Walmarts are known to be the epitome of American shopping, providing food, clothing and even guns. The last invention, the television, was to overcome the psychological blow of living in a confined space with no amenities in the vicinity. Not many people actually possess the ability to survive living with the same one to three people for more than 40 years. The television is the reason why you can sit up to two hours next to your parents without saying a word. The ever increasing addictiveness of apps like TikTok have now reinforced the feasibility of the suburb. Rotting away in a room because you narrowed down your friendships to just the one with your phone has never been as discrete but drastic as today. Let’s not forget about the social effects of the Covid pandemic. We are a digital generation. Working from home has become accepted in many companies. The distances involved in lived suburbs are made possible by the computer. We live in a constantly narrowing world, until finally it reaches the size of a phone screen.
Part 4. Spring
There is however light at the end of the tunnel. Contrary to popular belief, people get sick of scrolling through shit. In a personal observation, I notice a strong longing for more analog lifestyles by young adults in the past five years. Young people are swapping smartwatches for Casios, fast fashion for vintage, Spotify for vinyl, Netflix for the cinema, DSLR for Film, and some young people even go as far as replacing their smartphone for a Nokia flip phone. It was only recently that in Dutch news we came to understand that young people are in fact flooding bookstores again in search of qualitative and immersive novels. Almost satirically, I can’t convince my own suburbanite father that I prefer film over digital photography. Retro has made a comeback, and it is here to stay. Rather than a shallow aesthetic as some like to call it, it is actually a countermovement against the digital age.
Contrary to what many people outside our faculty think, the suburb is inhuman. Due to the lack of sensory stimulation, the suburb can only be maintained with modern inventions that are created to survive sharing a living environment for more than 40 years. Hemingway’s beautiful scenes are on the spot, in the city, face to face. Drinking is done in bars, eating at restaurants and conversations are everywhere. In the suburb, it is all a rather disappointing spectacle between the house and the supermarket. TikTok’s addictive interface draws young teens’ attention to that of their phone, making them forget the misery of being alone. Luckily there is opposition. Gen Z is the first generation that fully grew up in a world dominated by digital distancing. Growing up with the magical power of the world at their fingertips, they know all about the advantages and disadvantages of smartphones. Two sides of the same coin. As a result, some have chosen to oppose the digital age in an attempt to regain their consciousness. Analog ways of living are sexy yet again.