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Blurred Vision

My eyes despise the impact of tiny screens. When I look up, I see things in a haze, a gloss, a film, a blurry depiction of life unfolding all around me. My eyes used to help me with depth perception and now they don’t perceive anything the same. Soft edges on your nose while you’re sitting right in front of me. Squinting trying to make out words on billboards. Mistaking a brown paper bag on the street for a puppy. It’s all out of focus because I’ve changed my focus.


I’m chronically online but so out of touch. PhD student and writer Maalvika described in a recent TikTok video that went viral “We used to say BRB, but now we just live here. These little colorful icons are always beckoning, always reachable. The internet is not a place anymore, it’s embedded in all of us.” 


She’s right. The internet used to be a location and now it’s with us everywhere we go. I hate that I’ve trained my eyes to stop looking at the tree in the park and instead spend more time looking at the digital one on a feed before me. I idolize the fake version rather than noticing the beauty in the real one. The tangible, towering oak with its textured bark and rustling leaves gives way to a flattened, lifeless image on a screen. I devour the simplicity of the 2d rather than reflecting on the richness of the three-dimensional world, which sadly falls secondary, just outside my periphery. 


My mind has been trained to see things only through my phone, neglecting the eyes I was born with. When I look up from my phone, I have to blink so many times just to take in the view of the skyline and when I do, shrouded in a faint filter. The horizon once dotted with distant dreams and possibilities now feels compressed, replaced by the immediacy of what I can grasp in my hands. I try to look away when I feel myself in a glued gaze. It’s as if my eyes are seduced by pixels, held in captivity, hypnotized by a “replica” of the real world surrounding me. 


At the end of the day, when my brain feels heavy, I become entranced by the trifecta of screens that mesmerize me: scrolling on my phone, while watching a video on my laptop, with the tv playing in the background. I saturate myself in this entertainment at every angle, from every platform: YouTube. Instagram. TikTok. Netflix. I overdose on reality television, vlogs, comedy sketches, movie reviews, product hauls and unboxings, life hacks and DIY projects, romance comedies, true crime documentaries, celebrity interviews. The list goes on. My own thoughts melt away when I hear the voices of strangers, like Emma Chamberlain, talking, distracting me from whatever it is that I’m worried about that day. It feels like I can socialize without actually having to be social. 


With Apple’s Vision Pro, this invasion of tech worsens, pulling us further into a mixed reality that distracts us from who we are at our core, removing our humanity, ushering us into a world where we actually don’t need anybody. Community can’t thrive in that setting. The single source of media is disintegrating as we know it and multiple sources are tugging at our pupils, begging us to forget our existence on earth and trade it in for a mere subreality. There, we can only be a version of ourselves.


It’s troubling to see people like Casey Neistat so willingly normalize this intrusion and buy into the disappearance of the real world. By putting on these goggles or lifting our phone to meet our gaze everywhere we go, for hours on end, we’re saying we’re okay with running away from life. In his recent YouTube video, he chooses to shut out other people and invite an individual world, only he can see. It hurts that the only flaw people like him are saying is that it’s too heavy and they would like it to be compact enough to replace their glasses or better yet become a lens we insert in our eyes like contacts.


We’re literally being blinded by technology, turning more and more into a mixed breed of half robot, half mammal, each and every day. While we’re becoming more “technologically advanced” while regressing in terms of our social skills as well as the ability to have empathy and foster genuine human connections. 


The digital multi tasking we do feels just as good as consuming copious amounts of our favorite deep fried, sugary foods. It’s cheap dopamine. It gives us a temporary high until it ends yet it never ends because there’s an overwhelming amount to suck us in. We’re hooked for life, consumers forever but instead of cold hard cash, we’re giving away all of our attention. We’re diverted for hours on end, until it’s dark outside. It’s only then when we realize, we’ve spent more time in the digital realm than in the “real” one.


My whole life, I've been consumed by these digital landscapes that unfold within the confines of my devices. From the nostalgic hum of the bulky computer in my early years to the sleek high-definition displays of today, I have a perpetual hunger for this false sense of connection. This insatiable craving has woven its way into the fabric of my existence, becoming a constant backdrop to the unfolding chapters of my life. The allure of screens has been both a companion and captor, dictating the rhythm of my days and nights.


While feasting on this media, my eyes have become not just receptors of light but conduits to an ever-expanding digital dining where the flavors of reality are often overpowered by the artificial sweetness of the virtual. The act of looking up becomes not just a physical movement but a symbolic act of tearing my gaze away from the buffet of screens that clamor for my attention, beckoning me to partake.


We’ve abandoned authenticity in favor of its digital image. A symbol of surrender to the convenience of virtuality over the richness of the real thing. The metaphorical lens through which we perceive life is increasingly tinted by the glow of our screens, casting a shadow on the authenticity of the here and now. 


It's crucial to acknowledge the influence held within our grasp – the power to reclaim our gaze, refocus our attention, and strike a balance between the tangible and the virtual. Each day presents an opportunity to peel away the digital layers clouding our vision, rediscovering the world in all its nuanced glory. The journey from a distant tree in the park to a handheld digital replica is not irreversible; it's a path we navigate, and with mindful intent, we can recalibrate our focus to embrace the full spectrum of human experience. Our eyes serve as gateways to the soul of perception, and we have the authority to choose the lenses that shape our view of the world. After all, smartphones aren't smart if they rob us of our sight.


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