I´ve been thinking a bit about technology recently, and that´s been triggered by a number of things. I had a bit of a rant recently about people taking pictures and videos of me while busking and not giving me any money, which hit its peak in Mostar, Bosnia & Hercegovina. I loved Mostar. It is a beautiful city with a fascinating and harrowing history – if you ever go, I can recommend Miran´s tour, an 8 hour long guided tour de force which covers beautiful scenery and swimming by a waterfall, followed by a personal and detailed account of his experiences during the Croat-Bosnian war and the siege of Mostar. It´s powerful stuff, and I´m glad I went.
But… I really disliked the tourists. I say this while fully aware of the hypocrisy in this statement, but I felt that Mostar tourists were more irritating than anywhere else I have seen. It´s the cruise ship day trip crowd, and cruise ship day trip crowds love to take pictures. Of everyone and everything. Including me. While I´m busking. I simply do not understand the logic behind photographing or videoing a busker without contributing to the case. Just what is it about my performance that inspired them to take a picture? Did they particularly enjoy it? Did they find it unique or unusual? Or – and I suspect that this latter option is invariably true – is it that we have become conditioned in this Facebook/Instagram era to feeling that if something isn´t documented on a social media profile, or at least have the potential to be documented on a social media profile, it might not have happened?
I wonder what people do with these pictures. Do they show them to their family and friends, and if so what do they say? They´re generally too busy faffing about with adjusting their selfie sticks to listen or engage with the performance in any meaningful way, so I can´t imagine they will have anything interesting to say about it (I hate selfie sticks. If I were King of the World for a day, my first act would be to burn them all. Then maybe I´d try and tackle child poverty or something). Or do they keep them for their own personal posterity, fondly looking back on them in years to come, presumably remembering not the memory of the moment itself, but rather the memory of creating evidence of the moment?
This rather obsessive need to validate our experiences with technology seeps into other areas too. I was in a taxi a few days ago with a few other travellers going from Sarajevo to Belgrade. One of the passengers asked for new music recommendations, and the first response she got was for someone to say, ´Oh, there´s an app where you can put in your favourite music and it suggests things you might like.´ Because god forbid we should actually have an interesting conversation about music! I feel a bit harsh saying that, because she was genuinely trying to helpful with the app suggestion, but I found it a little depressing all the same.
Then there was the guy who came out for a meal with a group of us in Poland and spent ten minutes on Tinder while we were all talking. I felt like shouting at him, ´There are women here! Real, live women! Sitting at the very same table as you! Talk to them!´
I´m not for one moment suggesting that I am immune to the curse of over-reliance on technology by any means – I think that we are all tempted, at some point, to relax and shut ourselves off from the world by doing something on a screen. And I enjoy taking pictures. Sometimes these pictures are probably unnecessary. So include myself in this criticism. But let us talk; let us laugh; let us sing together, let us sometimes have an evening where no pictures are taken, not out of any conscious desire to avoid them, but rather because no one got round to taking any and everyone was fine with this. Good memories are more important than evidence that few will ever see or care about.
Mind you, I´ve just spent the last hour or so writing this with the sole intention of publishing it online, rendering my whole argument totally pointless. Time to get out and do some busking. Zagreb, I´m coming for you!