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Why the viral video ‘Look Up’ is sentimental nonsense

why the look up video is sentimental nonsense looup vid
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re not one of the 26 million (as of May 7) people who’ve watched viral video sensation “Look Up” on YouTube, here’s a rundown: it addresses our growing obsession with smartphones, social media, and the Internet in general. The video’s writer and star is Gary Turk, who warns that by living our lives online, we’re missing out on all the wonderful things around us, including true love. He says we all need to stop it, right now.

In the real world, for every one person who can hold an interesting conversation, there will be 20 dribbling dullards who can’t.

I have a big problem with this, and no, it’s not the already tedious “tech-is-ruining-our-lives” argument. It’s Gary Turk’s rose-tinted view of a world without social media that’s worrysome. He romantically describes an alternate universe where everything is awesome that we’re supposed to yearn for; but it sounds like a terrifying melodramatic nightmare. Yes, Look Up is exaggerated for effect, but I fear he is basing his world where social media has been eradicated on Downton Abbey. Shame it’ll end up being more like Blue Velvet.

I’m not even convinced the world Turk describes — a wonderland where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and pleased to see you — ever existed. If I hadn’t seen him with my own eyes, I’d have imagined Turk was an 85-year-old who told everyone he met that he remembered when “all he could see was fields.”

Kids are happier in this brave new world too. “When I was a boy,” says Turk, “I was outside playing every day.” The video then gives us a flash of some poor, lonely child playing a video game, who should really be outside shooting up the neighborhood instead. I understand it’s all about painting a picture, but come on. As a child, I never once wore holes in my shoes while out rushing around, nor did I “build a club house in the trees.” The only children that did were those in books written during the 1920s. You know what else was popular in the 20s? The Spanish Flu, prohibition, and the KKK. I’ll take social media over all those, thanks.

The video advocates talking to strangers

Look Up is sentimental old nonsense. But it gets worse. The video doesn’t just want us to stop staring at our phones, it wants to make us talk to people. Not just people we know, or even those we tolerate, but strangers. The video explicitly says we should be chitchatting with our fellow humans at every opportunity. Sitting at bus stops, walking down the street, or even while on the train. “Just talk to one another, learn to co-exist,” says Turk.

In his utopia, these meaningless conversations would probably be akin to calling out “morning Mrs Tibbs,” over a white picket fence as you cycle past on your way to helping sick orphans at the local hospital. In the real world, for every one person who can hold an interesting, informed, adult conversation, there will be at least 20 dribbling dullards who can’t. Knowing my luck, they’ll be keen to tell me about how they used to be addicted to their smartphones, but then this YouTube video came along and changed their lives. That is, they can try, but by this point I’ll already be halfway out the train window, or on my way to nearest tall building.

I’m willing to bet people don’t really want to hear strangers like this, or talk to them. I’m not dismissing a few well-placed witty remarks at the right moment, or a “hello there,” when you sit in the same vicinity as someone else. These are polite and socially acceptable. Anything more, though, and you’re being a pest. If you strike up a conversation and I’ve never met you before, I’ll assume you’re deranged, want to sell me something, are about to convert me to another religion, or trying get into my pants. Although that last one would probably benefit from being judged on a case-by-case basis.

Please, someone save us from this hideous nightmare

Look Up is a horror film threatening to unleash the hordes who can’t stop Tweeting, Pinning, Tumbling, Liking, or anything else, on me and the rest of the unsuspecting public. The world right now is like the scene in Dawn of the Dead, where the zombies are distracted long enough for the gang to do a spot of shopping in peace. Take away that distraction and they’ll be gnawing on our bones in no time.

Thanks to the Internet, the dullards are all droning on through Twitter, Facebook, or on some dreadful video logger like Vine. It’s a wonderful system, because I can ignore every single one of them without looking rude. Turk has no right to come along and try to change all that with his emo preaching.

Normal, well-adjusted people use social media responsibly. They know when to stop, and teach their kids to do the same.

What we really need is a video called Look Down, which tells the hordes of terminally irritating people how amazing social media is, and how they should get on it and stop talking to people who just want some peace.

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Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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