Creeping loss

Mathias Maurer

At the bus stop: some are young enough still to believe in the tooth fairy yet everyone is busy on their mobiles. It appears that the only way they communicate any longer is through social media although they are standing right next to one another. I wait. I get into conversation with some of them about the latest phones on the market. I ask: “Do you have Internet?” – “Of course,” everyone choruses ... and looks at me as if I’m a few keys short of a keyboard.

In the evening I’ve arranged to meet my colleague Bert in town. The pub he has navigated to is overflowing with people. Immediately he googles for an alternative starting from our location. While he fusses about on his device, I use the time to look around me. Round the corner is just the place we’re looking for. He cannot believe it, I almost have to drag him into the pub. Later on he offers to drive me home. Not worth it, I tell him, I can walk it in five minutes. But he insists so we get in the car, he switches the sat nav on, connects his iPhone, enters country – city – street – destination, the sat nav searches, says there are several similar street names, which one? Three routes are suggested, which to choose? It takes a good five minutes. A quarter of an hour later we are there.

Something that is sold to us as making our everyday lives easier in reality takes time out of our lives, reduces our awareness of what is happening around us to a 4.7 inch display, and permanently offers guidance in a world of offerings which no longer seems penetrable in any other way. Finding information is no longer associated with any effort of the brain but at most of the thumbs. We need background information in order to meaningfully select or structure such a flood of information. And that is precisely what children and adolescents – and many adults – who reveal the most intimate details to the consciousness industry do not have.

At the latest since the extent of data surveillance and the data economy was publicly revealed – and this undoubtedly only represents the tip of the iceberg – it has become an educational imperative to explain that there is no private sphere on the Net. And most recent developments show that Google, Facebook und all the others are not just working to sell detailed profiles of users for profit with ever more sophistication, but to redefine reality on vessels in international waters. Then all-out users will not even notice any longer that their freedom has been irreversibly lost. Orwell says hello: the human I will disappear and its digital shadow will rule.