Ask yourself, how long can you go without having to use your phone? How long before you succumb to the allure of seeing what your friend just posted on Facebook or Twitter? Why keep refreshing your email hoping for something new to appear rather than taking in the day?
Having just read The Machine Stops, I could not believe how well Forster captured the idea of man’s dependency on technology in 1909. With every innovation made to add comfort into a person’s life, people cannot detach from it; that thing becomes the center of everyone’s attention and, to the extreme, their life. People are so willing to express their “ideas” on social media, similar to how people in The Machine Stops do through their lectures. They focus on being innovative and clever instead of just having appreciation for what they have…which is something I witness a lot when people complain about how their phone is outdated or when they don’t follow the latest trends. We seem to always want to be up-to-date on everything and with the Internet (our modern day Machine) we are capable of doing so…
Vashti is a great representation of a normal First-World consumer in our society. Much like how I see people act with their cellphones, Vashti acts like a recluse (with her white skin and lack of going out) who has difficulty in physical/social situations and instead strives to communicate through “The Machine”. This inability to have real human connections with others is pretty evident with how more and more people seem to be acting socially awkward today. And everything Vashti does is in relation to the betterment of The Machine, even though she’s actually sacrificing her freedom and will to it; we feel like by voicing our opinions or following what’s relevant through the Internet, we are bettering ourselves but in the end why does it matter what Kim Kardashian is doing or why should one talk about the history of Australian Music.
In the following quote, doesn’t it honestly sound like news feeds from Facebook?
“What was the new food like? Could she recommend it? Has she had any ideas lately? Might one tell her one’s own ideas? Would she make an engagement to visit the public nurseries at an early date? – say this day month”
Albeit not entirely worded correctly like our modern lexicon, it’s crazy to think about that this was written more than a hundred years ago and yet Forster nailed it on the head; we fancy ourselves in being important with random, irrelevant non-sense. Even Vashti’s irritation to responding and yet doing so anyway is pretty accurate to how, at least I, respond to those kind of messages (paragraph following the quote).
Just think about the next time you send a message or are staring at your computer longingly looking for entertainment. You should instead seek that entertainment and joy in the real world. Progress and innovation are good, but you should also take a step back to appreciate where this progress came from and just take it in rather than expecting to constantly move forward.