Yesterday I was introduced to a new game called Pokemon Go, but it wasn’t until today that I felt in actual awe of what seems to be a new phenomenon.
It’s crazy walking around and seeing various people with their eyes trained on their phone screens, not because people did not check their phones frequently before, but because people are now being led by their devices, following fake Pokemon characters into stores at the mall and outside into the streets, unaware of the rushing cars and blinking lights. It’s crazier to see people of all ages and shapes and sizes huddled near the fountain outside of a Starbucks because it is a “Pokespot.” I won’t get into the details of the game because I’ll probably misinform you. All I know is that it’s a big hit—just today I saw children in graphic tees and skater shoes next to bearded men in sweaters near women in jeans and heels who held onto their boyfriends with one hand and their phones with the other, both eyes on their gaming gadgets.
Something I can’t help but notice is that many players are well-aged. They are teens and people teetering on the tightrope of adulthood, middle-aged folks. I laugh a little when I see them, not out of spite or contempt (maybe a little bit of condescension, or disbelief, more like, because the graphics are nothing short of childish. No one actually thinks they’re catching Pokemon… at least I hope not.) Someone reading out there might be getting peevish, so I apologize in advance. It’s because, as one friend put it, I “didn’t grow up loving Pokemon,” so I wouldn’t “get it.” I don’t necessarily sense this nostalgia in the people whose eyes remain glued to their phones, but I do believe it. When groups of friends and strangers pump their fists in excitement at a Pokemon sighting, when they mutter “yes’s” and enthused “gotcha’s,” I can believe that the game brings forth early memories of sitting in pjs, watching Saturday cartoons on the stained couches of childhood, living vicariously through Ash and Brock and Misty.
Still, I can’t help but wonder: what kind of world am I living in?
And even more so, what kind of world will I be living in five, ten years from today?
Today I sat outside the mall and watched people watching their phones in the hopes of catching cartoon creatures. I laughed with (and at) my friends who grew frustrated with their inability to catch Cryogonal or Snorlax. I watched the multitudes, and I wondered if they would continue to catch and lose and level-up as they got into their cars and found their way home in the dark. Would they forget the conversations we had had while waiting for fish tacos? Would they forget our time together? I don’t suspect that they will forget; it is more so that they will not be able to remember. They will not allow themselves to dwell on the events of their day, to mull over the importance of presence, and this makes me sad.
I sat on a bench outside the mall, noticing the absence of my friend who had sat beside me, catching Pokemon. I noticed the lack of warmth and weight, of laughter. I missed the kids who had sat beside me in class that morning, asking me shyly for pictures at the end of the two-hour lesson. The kids who had given me the respect of a teacher, though I did not readily deserve it. I yearned for that which had passed: the tight embrace of a friend who knew we might not see each other again, the sweet words of someone in the coziness of a black car, the feeling of joking around and looking up at the palm trees near the fountain outside of Starbucks. Water spraying against my back while I washed dishes. Looking for friendship bracelets with someone I love and miss already. Prayers at Dairy Queen. The fullness of a satisfied stomach and the drowsiness that accompanied it. Funny photos of faces swapped on phones. Conversations about college and people who have changed our lives for the better.
I realize my thoughts have strayed from their “technological” beginnings. I cannot help but remember the fleeting moments of today. I wish I could keep them forever, but I know that I cannot. Perhaps if I were a robot, I would be able to store memories… but memories without feeling are not significant, and therefore, not worth the storage.
So we catch Pokemon, these fictional creatures. We also catch friends, real friends. Cherish them. Dwell on them. Tell them how you feel. Allow yourselves to miss them and to love them because you (we) never know when they might run loose.