The Dead Brain Cells Society Hannah Barrett

Recently, there has been a new Apple commercial for the iPad Air circulating the small screen. The commercial is a montage of striking images with one of Mr. Keating’s (Robin Williams) famous monologues from the film Dead Poets Society playing in the background. The timing has been all too perfect for the ad to surface and for me to develop a strong opinion about it; if it weren’t for a little over a month ago, when my friend visited from out of town, I would have never thought twice about Apple’s marketing ploys.

I had a friend visiting for a couple days and hadn’t really planned much for us to do; she was easy enough to entertain. I mean, let’s be honest here – nowadays you really only have to entertain kids 10 and under (unless they have a Wii…then you just have to make sure they don’t throw the console at the TV). Once she arrived, we decided that the best way to spend time together after not seeing each other for six months was to watch season one of J’amie: Private School Girl. What better way to spend time with a friend you haven’t seen in months than to watch a cross-dressed man rip teenage girls apart as a joke on HBO? (Keep in mind, this was a real departure from what we usually do when she visits; every other time we hang out we watch a season of Girls.) After watching J’amie for three hours, we added another two hours and eight minutes to our special screen watching social time with The Dead Poets Society. As the movie progressed, a sour taste began to form in my mouth that just got worse and worse. Why am I feeling so awful? I thought. Is this my first existential crisis? Am I going to become super pretentious after this?

I have since realized that this “sour taste” was brought on by the realization that I have succumbed to the epidemic attacking the 21st century: fear of awkwardness. More often than not, we outsource the fear of relating to one another to technology just to avoid the possible awkward silences or conversation lulls that comes with human engagement. Whether it be checking Instagram while out to lunch with a friend or hiding behind a game of Candy Crush while in line at Starbucks, we’re losing the ability to just “be” in the world and roll with the punches as uncomfortable as they can sometimes be. We always have to be engaged in something to be content. I think Louis C.K. put it best in his Rolling Stone interview when he said, “The worst thing happening to this generation is that they’re taking discomfort away from themselves.” 

Even though I hadn’t seen my friend in months, I felt that we were out of things to discuss, so the best option for showing her a good time was to literally show her people having a good time on TV. Yet, what makes The Dead Poets Society so poignant and endearing is that these high school boys were able to form an incredible camaraderie with each other just from talking and reading poems in the woods.

So now, whenever that iPad commercial comes on, I feel a rush of disappointment all over again. Is the only way to experience the world and each other now purely virtual? Can we only “Carpe Diem” with an electronic in our hand?

I’ll go Google it and get back to you.

Here is the iPad Air commercial:

Image via: ShutterStock

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  1. In my opinion, we’re sometimes too quick to blame technology and its existence for our usage habits. The fact that TV and technology by extension made it easier for us to essentially escape mentally from being with others, says more about ourselves and our inner person than it does about technology itself. Barring any AI being invented any time soon, technology will only be what we make of it. For example, you could have used technology in a positive way, such as discovering interesting articles that could be used a conversation starters if you really felt that you had nothing to say. Yes, it is easy to retreat into technology but we are the only ones in control of our choices, not the phone, Ipad or TV. It’s not the diversity of technological choice that is making us feel awkward but our own lack of awareness and control over the choices we make. Just my opinion.

  2. Agreed. I happen to be so “lucky” that my iPhone 4 is so slow, that I often don’t use it for Facebook and games. I only use these features if its necessary (ex for messaging). And therefore I happen to just “be” in the moment and spend my time observing the (often funny) quirks people have during their “transport-time”, “standing in line time” and I find, that people without technology do the funniest things which makes me happy about leaving my phone in my backpack. Except for the ones picking their noses, haha!

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