[VIEWPOINT]Fireflies glowing in the theaterCell phones are now like an extension of our bodies and their use is as natural as breathing. When you go abroad, what you feel most at first is that you will not be able to use your cell phone for several days. That gives us strange feelings of anxiety and release at the same time. As we realize the existence of breathing only when there is a vacuum and we begin to suffocate, we might find how dependent we are on cell phones only when they are taken away from us.
Starting from the moment people land at Incheon International Airport from overseas, they hurriedly begin to open their cell phones as if they missed the phone connection that was severed for several days. And absently looking at display screens, they march to the immigration desk like zombies with expressionless faces. In fact, cell phones have deprived us of all solitude, meditation and introspection. Those may sound like archaic, primitive and childish words that might have been heard only at a drinking party of a college literary club in the 1970s. But it is true that with the advent of cell phones, we have deprived ourselves of moments of everyday life when we can be alone, even for a little while.
When I went to the mountains some time ago, I saw a man quietly walking on the path. While he was walking alone on the forest path, he was giggling and talking about women with his friend on his phone. Yes, it may be fun that even when you are strolling in an isolated place, you can chatter with your friend as if he or she is just next to you. But the man also avoided all the things that can be felt only in the forest, such as the clean air, the silence surrounding him and the sound of leaves stirred by the wind. Only when a man is alone may he be able to calmly look inside himself and at his surroundings. But cell phones make us share all such moments with all our friends.
In fact, moments of meditation and introspection do not necessarily require isolated circumstances like a secluded mountain valley or a desert island. Even in the moments of everyday life ― when you are sitting alone on the back seat of rattling bus or walking in the crowds in the transfer corridors of a subway station ― we often find small and large enlightenment.
But look at the people, especially young people, in the subway or on a bus. Most of them are holding cell phones. They are eagerly sending text messages to someone or they are excitedly logging on to the Internet to download 40 polyphonic bell sounds. Moreover, now it is said that even mobile movies are available on display screens. The prospect is more and more unlikely that you can avoid bombardments of excitement and reach a moment of meditation. It seems as if we are seeking enlightenment in a tiny color display screen.
And cell phones have also made people more susceptible to boredom. At any moment, they can take out their phones and open them. One place where you can experience that is in a movie theater. Just take the chance to see a movie in the last row of a theater. When a sequence in the movie begins to get boring, fireflies begin to glow around the heads of the audience as their liquid crystal display screens light up.
Oh, those heartless moviegoers. But, in fact, the director who made the movie tedious is responsible for that. From now on, directors are advised to sit in the last row during the previews of their movies and observe carefully in which part of the movie cell phones are most opened and then cut that part. That technique might be called “the people’s court of flip phones.”
Of course, I am not an opponent of cell phones. Who would dare to pose questions about them, the greatest hit commodity of the current decade and the favorite son of the communications revolution? But I often wonder whether we lost something when we acquired cell phones. At least we acquired a new bodily organ.
* The writer is a movie director. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Bong Joon-ho
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