Title text: [*disables social networking accounts*] [*social isolation increases*] Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?
When someone asks you if you want to go for a walk they often expect to have a conversation, while enjoying both the exercise, the fresh air and the company. Thus any disturbance not related to the walk is not welcome. Going for a walk is often seen as a way to relax from all the daily stress, as it takes the walkers away from work and chores.
Cueball agrees to go for a walk, but not to all the associated expectations. His first instinct is to bring along his smartphone, though rather than call it such, he opts for a lengthy description detailing all the functions he intends to use. He describes the phone as a device that gives him a continuous (24/7) stream of information, much of which is often out of context. The stream contains people's opinions, context-free but scary news, and other random stimuli. Conspicuously, long-distance communication (ostensibly the primary function of a smartphone) is not listed. This may be a sign that Cueball is addicted to his phone.
The stream of opinions mentioned could be from news or bloggers but it could also just be from his friends on social media platforms. News stories that are shared on social media are often scary, which becomes even worse because news outlets are likely to use a title that exaggerates the topic to create a fear reaction. The random emotional stimuli could be from many things such as text messages/emails and pictures of kittens and babies on social network, and shared internet memes or viral videos. All things that could cause a quick shift in emotions.
As if all this was not enough, Cueball even says he will also take his spare battery, so he won't risk that his constant feed could be interrupted, because he will not be able to recharge his phone during the walk. All in all, his choice and constant need for staying updated and being online violates all the usual expectations, that his friend could have expected from asking him out for a walk. Randall's fear of running out of power on his smartphone was earlier mentioned in 1373: Screenshot, where a low battery charge stresses him too much to realize it is someone else's screenshot, rather than his own phone that has a low charge. Since then he has made other references to his issue with low batteries in 1872: Backup Batteries and 1965: Background Apps.
The title text shows it would be possible to take an action to avoid this feed. In the first bracket a person (could be Cueball or Randall) disables all his social networking accounts. Most of his news feed will thus disappear. But this leads to the next bracket which states that such a choice would lead to increased social isolation, since he will no longer be in contact with any of his online friends. In fact, today many people also get into contact with their "real" local friends through social media, so one might thus miss out on events like parties or get-togethers. In addition, his friends, not sharing his dislike for social media, may not understand his decision. All of this leads to the final sentence Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?
- [Someone off-panel asks Cueball a question which he answers while walking to a small table with some items laying on it.]
- Off-panel voice: Wanna go for a walk?
- Cueball: Sure, just need to grab my device that feeds me a 24/7 stream of opinions, context-free scary world news, and random emotional stimuli.
- Cueball: Plus a spare battery so the feed won't be interrupted.
- This clearly refers back to the main comic, thus saying that it also feels bad to have this constant stream of input, which could often be disturbing. So there is no good choice listed in the comic, because it is bad to be completely offline, but being online all the time is also bad. And it is hard to find the right balance. This problem with finding the right balance between two things is related to the recent 1796: Focus Knob, where one thing was following the news too much the other not at all. In that comic it was impossible to follow the news without it getting too much.
- A related comic was posted long ago with 77: Bored with the Internet. In this comic Cueball go for a walk to escape the internet, only to be thinking about the next post to make once back online.
- This comic is also related to the recent comic 1773: Negativity, as both deal with the inability to escape the media during objectively peaceful pastimes. While in the former, the nature attacks Cueball with the types of comments he wishes to avoid, here, he brings along his phone even though it will ruin the goal of the walk he is going to take. Negativity seemed to be a kind of follow up on 1761: Blame where Cueball feels sad because of all the bad things that are happening, typically that which could be described as scary news, which in that case was posted by his friends on Facebook so Cueball blames his friends. This comic thus, for the third time in about three month, express a dislike for online societies and its reaction to lots of bad news, also refereed in other comics during those three months. (See more on this here.)
- This is the second comic in a row where having access to the internet on a smartphone while out walking is a major part of the plot, the first being 1801: Decision Paralysis, where Randall mentions how access to the internet when having two similar options to choose from can cause a decision paralysis while he researches the best option.
- Should not be confused with the other Phone comics from the xkcd Phone series, but generally smartphones is a recurring subject on xkcd.
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