What The New Facebook Smart Glasses Teach Us About Ourselves

Every moment is fleeting.

The time you spend going to dinner with your spouse. A two-week vacation visiting sunny California. The 20 minutes it takes to drive to work, depending on traffic.

We won’t ever get that time back, which should make us more intentional.

With social media, it’s the opposite. Intentionality is rarely the goal. It’s often diametrically opposed to the business plan, in fact. The goal is to provide an illusion that time is not passing, that when you scroll through your feed, you don’t notice the passage of time.

Recently, Facebook released a new product called Ray-Ban Stories. The smart glasses can snap photos and shoot videos, and post them on your feed. You can listen to music or podcasts. Someday, the goggles might show you an augmented reality view of the world, although that is still TBD. For now, the $299 product is remarkably similar to the Snap Spectacles. 

The idea with any wearable is to make technology more immediate and accessible without relying on our phones. You can be at that dinner, on a vacation, or even driving to work and decide to record something for posterity.

And this is where the problems arise.

I won’t touch on the privacy issues with the Facebook smart glasses. You could go back and read any article about Google Glass and find out about why wearables encroach on our lives in a way that is awkward, invasive, or just plain stupid.

I’m more interested in the societal impact of wearing smart glasses all day (or at least for the six hours they work per charge).

We need less technology during the day, not more.

We live in a “more” society. We think: How can I take more photos and videos, how can I fill up my feed so it looks even more chaotic? How can I impress people with photos from my phone and photos from my sunglasses? What happens when we take on this mindset is that it moves us even further away from intentionality.

The “more” mindset is never satiated. 

I’ll give you one example. Back when Google Glass wasn’t quite available yet I managed to score a pair for testing. I was in San Francisco at the time, and I decided to bike to a conference. I ended up staying at a place that was across the channel from downtown, and each day I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a fantastic experience, still etched in my mind to this day. Except for one bike trip, when I used Google Glass.

All I can remember is that the HUD display didn’t look quite right. I remember pulling over at a wayside rest not just once or twice, but multiple times, fidgeting with the product trying to figure out why it didn’t quite work. By the time I made it over the bridge, fighting against the wind and trying to stay on the path, I realized I didn’t see the boats below, or anyone else biking, or really anything at all. I don’t have the memories of that day in my mind, just a faulty product.

The show Black Mirror on Netflix is named that way because of the black screen of our phones staring up at us. I’m worried about the black void, the empty voidless periods of time when we use “more” technology but experience less of actual, real-world living. 

Facebook smart glasses will resurface all of those same concerns. Is the battery charged enough? Do the people around me know I’m snapping photos (meaning, do they notice the bright light that tells them I’m recording something)? More importantly, will my followers notice I’m taking more photos and videos and will they think I’m even more amazing?

Probably not.

What I expect, if the opportunity to test them even arises, is that I’ll focus on the product itself and not the moments I’m living. That will be the ultimate failure.

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