Government Technology
By Ulf Wolf: Citizen engagement and responsibility in the digital age.

Digital Sacrifice

December 27, 2011 By

I flew to Los Angeles for the Christmas Holiday and while waiting for take-off (my Kindle duly put to sleep by flight-crew edict) came across this horrifying one-pager in Southwest Airline’s Spirit in-flight magazine, for December 2011:

The headline:

“53% of kids would sacrifice their sense of smell to keep their favorite technology.”

The details:

“Nothing beats the scent of fresh-cut grass or Mom’s apple pie—well, nothing except logging onto Facebook and finding two new friend requests and a post on your wall. Now, that’s living—at least if you empathize with the 1,442 kids who, in a McCann Worldgroup poll of several thousand 16- to 22-year-olds, said they’d give up their sense of smell before parting with their cell phones or laptops. Other expendables included cosmetics, cars, and passports.

“Not so surprisingly, 48% of 23- to 30-year-olds polled felt similarly. ‘Asking [young people] to switch off their phones is akin to asking them to shut their eyes and ears,’ says McCann’s Laura Simpson.

“Sorry, nose. It appears you’ve just fallen out of the top five—senses, that is.”


I think this quoted comment speaks very loudly for itself, and all I can really add to it is my genuine horror at what I perceive as the truth of it.

And I think that part of this truth is that most of those 1,442 kids have in fact never smelled newly-cut grass, or had a mother who could bake an apple pie (other than a micro-waved Pillsbury).

I must also assume that none of these 1,442 digital kids are aware of the fact that the sense of smell makes up the majority of our eating pleasure (the tongue only discerning the sweet, the bitter, the sour, the salty, and—as of late—the umami, or the pleasantness of that bite).

In fact, I honestly believe that the only state that can bring a human being to seriously (and freely) sacrifice one of his or her senses in favor of Facebook or Twitter, or an iPad for that matter, is the state where life simply has not been lived in what they not so long ago referred to the RL (Real Life)—a Life that now obviously is coming in a close (or distant) second to the more cherished DL (Digital Life).

I can see cosmetics, cars, and passports not keeping up with the allure of online existence—these things are after all not integral to your physical being; but when you seriously look at giving up smell (or taste, or hearing, or seeing, or touch?) in favor of the digital thrill, I think it is time to take a huge step back and then slowly count to at least one thousand.

You should then power down your laptop, or close your browser, or whatever you have to do to shed the digital skin and then go out and smell some newly cut grass or some freshly baked apple pie, and then ask yourself again, Do I really want to lose one of the senses by which I live in Real Life?

I think (and hope and pray) that the answer this time will be: no.

That said, have a Very Happy New Year — May 2012 see you achieve, or at least bring you closer to your goals.


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