Idling is mankind's oldest passtime

I remember watching a documentary about life in the countryside and the issue of declining and aging population popped up. They showed a couple of images of old people idling in the sun, doing nothing for hours at a time, perhaps at most feeding pigeons. Everywhere you go, cities, towns, villages far and wide, the same scene.

Someone described the phenomenon quite poignantly:

These men are waiting for fate.

Waiting for something interesting to happen; Waiting for fotune to fall on their lap; For a life-changing encounter; Or perhaps waiting for death;
They picked the rightest spot they could find, now they only had to wait for the right time.

I got to thinking what would lead people to do something like that, to be passive agents in their own lives. Perhaps they are and feel too old for continued progress. Having no realistic access to opportunities, depression, or simply not knowing how to work towards whatever goals they might have may explain it too. Or they could merely already be content with life or have no objectives at all, simply idling the days by. If something fruitful falls on their laps, even better!

Furthermore, most of those explanations are better suited to a younger population, but it's not like you see the 18-34 demographic sitting on benches feeding pidgeons or trailing the line between sleep and awake.

Then it hit me:

I still don't have a smartphone, but a year ago I folded and got me a tablet to allow me to use my commute and lunch times to work towards my goals.
But I always wondered what everyone is doing on their smartphones. Before getting my tablet, my commute was a waiting game, doing nothing. I always assumed these people are all playing the flavor of the month glorified flash game or chatting with people on some messenger app.

Curiosity kept growing and growing inside me, until it was too much and I took it. I fostered the bad habit of taking a glance at their screens (under the ethical guideline of not reading whatever words are on display) and the results were honestly surprising.

Most these people aren't playing any game.
They aren't chatting either.

They were scrolling through timelines.

At the absolute most, 10% of the people I snooped on were playing some game. I didn't find a single person doing anything that could classify as productive, either in terms of personal development or work-related. One of the main drivers behind the smartphone propaganda, fell flat on its butt regardless of how bigger my sample grew.

Scrolling. More scrolling.
A quick swipe to the bottom of the page.
Swiping back up.

I had found the city folk who are waiting for fate, and they're more numerous than I'd ever think possible.

I wonder what are they waiting for. A PM from an attractive person throwing themselves at them? A pop-up from one of the false tech gods directly telling them they won a ton of money? Perhaps a simple good news?

But whatever they're looking for never comes, and they keep on scrolling down the abyss.

It's even worse than that. In this age of outrage media, these people are exposing themselves to more and more demoralizing news, further strenghtening their sense of helplessness and their reliance on one silver bullet of fate to turn their life around.

The fate-waiting old man in the countryside is enjoying the good weather or feeding some birds, giving their neurons some rest as they drift close to sleep. The city-dwelling young fate-waiter is exposed to all manner of sensorial stimulli, airwaves of all kinds, with a device on their hands constantly reminding them of what they don't have and showing visions heralding the world becoming ever worse.

I sit down on the subway, take out my tablet, open anki and do my reps. As I finish, I put my tablet back on my backpack and look around. Everyone is also staring down on a screen. To my left is a guy watching a video of a girl with perfect skin, the camera close to her face. He finishes the video halfway and swipes down until he finds a new video to watch with the same qualities. In front of me, the brightness of a smartphone screen reflected on a woman's glasses as she swipes down and down some more, pressing "like" on something without even giving it a second look and swiping some more, making me wonder if I'm in the presence of a new breed of human being with razor sharp focus and deep retainment skills.

I sink into my seat and close my eyes.

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