The digital mirror

Richard Lutz rifles through his electronic life to find out who he is.


There was a time that a feature writer would dig deep into his bag of shoddy tricks and pull out a hardy winner: pile up your mail and see what comes through the door. Up would stack gas bills, charity pleas, the letter from a favourite aunt, the wrong addressee, the magazine you never asked for. The trope was that you are what drops through the box. It defined you. Or rather it was supposed to.

Today, you are what you click.

So, to check my life, I decided to let the clicks roll on to see where I went on the electronic map that sits on my desk, my phone, my tablet.

Instead of wiping out the history every now and then, I electronically piled ‘em high.  I saved all sites and links I used for a fortnight. So, digitally, brothers and sisters, where have I been? Into what electronic corners have I roamed? Where have I traveled in those realms of e-gold? 


Here’s a small profile of Digital Me:

Most recently  it was a search for a whole host of noir thrillers and screwball comedies from the 1940’s. I’m a sucker for them: Build My Gallows High, They Drive by Night, The Glass Key, Adam’s Rib, I Hired My Boss, It Happened in Flatbush, Born Yesterday. Also a futile meander through the films of Kirk Douglas for the missing Ulysses where The Cleft One takes on Troy and a whole bunch of guys in breastplates. I can never track it down. His family must have bought all copies and shredded the lot. 

On Thursday, it was a  spasmodic trawl through places to stay in India. We’re heading out after Christmas and it’s a minefield out there for homestays, B&Bs, small hotels, huts, mansions, more homestays and bungalows, all of them looking fine in the photos and not showing what the outside is like. There seems to be, by the way, a thing about displaying close ups of flowers and kitchen utensils when all  I want to see is the size of the bed and the view from the front room.

Earlier in the week, I looked up ( ‘researched’ is too grand a word) diplomat Nicky Haley. She’s the soon-to-quit  American UN ambassador.  She’s going to run for president  in 8 years time. I know because she denies it.

On the domestic front, there was a listless wander through the world of Birmingham carpet cleaners. My floor  resembles a  potato patch after a week of cleaning out the autumnal garden, raking, cutting back and unintentionally killing flora. Plus, there’s an unnamed friend who brings mud in all the time with shoes that resemble tractors.

Also on home affairs, there was the continuous searches for an LED bulb that will fit my anachronistic kitchen down-lighters, a manual apple peeler rather than those cheap posey ones that look fine but don’t do the job and that never-ending task of getting the right multi-functional tv before it turns obsolete and I have to buy an even newer one.

Littered also among the links were the one-offs. What does ‘patristic’ mean? The baseball career of Roberto Clemente. A Wikipaedia scramble  through the life of Tamburlaine for a stage review. Best way to get to Northampton from Birmingham (there is none). A search for a train booking to Glasgow (and back). I roamed around for a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (surprisingly, there are lots), looked up an old friend who became an actor (and electronically evaporated after 2011. What happened?), And I checked on how to fix a telephone that’s gone wonky, the phone number for a good curry house near me, how to store apples and how to find out how to find out things on the ‘net.



So, not too intellectual as I look back. Pretty functional. This connection to links is now part of our communicative lives, just as the telephone used to be, just as letter-writing used to be or telegrams used to be. Just as smoke signals used to be.

It’s no longer an oddity to see a train carriage with 80% of the passengers locked into a phone or IPAD. It’s actually more of an oddity to see someone reading a newspaper or  book. And, of course, the now timeworn weirdness of seeing two diners at a table silently peering into their personal worldview on mobiles is no longer disturbing or sad. But sadly and disturbingly normal.

In fact, we’ve been digitally normalised. This week, I went to a conference for something or other and time after time, if someone’s attention wasn’t needed, he or she would unknowingly grab for the phone. It was knee jerk. They instinctively went for it like a hunter going for a rifle if a rustling is heard in the woods. No one was calling. No one was messaging. In fact, no one was there.  Just digital space, digital  white noise. A deep well of digital junk. It’s now the space, the world, we live in.





3 thoughts on “The digital mirror

  1. Go out more and leave the gadgets behind. Autumn walks are beautiful right now, the trees, flora and fungi and sunsets – all breathtaking. Well worth photographing, if only you had a smart phone on you to record the sights!

  2. I am reminded of an Issac Asimov short story the of which, escapes me at the moment. At any rate, the story starts with a myriad of home digital devices performing their respective functions. It ends with the knowledge that they have been doing their daily routines for several thousand years in homes with no people. Humanity had been wiped off the face of the earth centuries before.

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