Culture of Narcissism Meets Google Glasses

Sunday, January 26, 2014
Posted in category Just Stuff

The recent case of Google Glass wearer Cecelia Abadie being given a citation for wearing a computer-in-eyeglass device while driving is only a launch point for what will be some very interesting court battles. The citation was dismissed in a San Diego court by a judge who properly noted that the police could not prove the device was in use and therefore charge Miss Abadie with distracted driving under the code.

Abadie was cited under a code banning operation of a video or TV screen at the front of a vehicle that is moving. Blair said the code’s language is broad enough that it could also apply to Google Glass if there were evidence the device was activated while the motorist was driving. But Abadie, who wore the device around her neck during her trial, insisted afterward that the screen is above her line of vision, its functions can be activated with her voice or a wink, and it is not a distraction even when activated.

I’m not too interested in the state’s case for distracted driving because most of these laws are totalitarian, no matter how much we dislike the abject quality of driving that materializes from the dimwits of distraction. While I personally despise those moments where drivers distract themselves to the point of a total lack of spatial awareness, as my friend Amy Alkon has written, “you can’t ban our way to safety.”

For the most part, I am more intrigued by the imminent evolution of Google Glass and how this device will further redefine the human connection in a way that sacrifices conversation in exchange for cyborg companionship. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Google Glass event at MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) when Google came to Detroit in November 2013 to promote a user demonstration of Google Glass.

The Detroit Free Press headline reads, “Google Glass Wows at MOCAD.” It was a well-organized event where folks were let into the demo area in small groups to speak with the Google Glass Guides and try out the device for as long as was desired. Afterwards, attendees were ushered over to a lounge area of the museum to indulge in free beverages and appetizers. All participants had photos taken while wearing the device, and we left with a printed copy as well as an emailed digital version of the photo.

I attended with an open mind because I wanted to be educated on the product so that I could either endorse it or condemn it as just another overt device of the culture of narcissism. The demo I experienced began with the Google Guide telling me he was “very excited” to see my reaction to this amazing new device. After thirty minutes of fussing with the Glass and trying out all of the available options, I was absolutely floored over the lack of excitement I experienced in totality. To be truthful, I went in a bit prejudiced, thinking that perhaps this was a device that was going to turn a generation of digital narcissists into unrestrained egomaniacs. On the other hand, I expected the actual product to be somewhat cool, and it wasn’t. It was completely unexciting and uneventful – sorry Google.

The options the Glass offers as an extension to the cell phone are skimpy and barely useful. What surprised me the most was the amount of eye strain the Google Glass causes after just a few minutes of use due to the fact that you have one eye looking upward into a corner to pick out a tiny screen. I can’t imagine being subjected to that kind of strain on a perpetual basis. The Google Guide told me it doesn’t cause eye strain because you shouldn’t be looking at it that long, yet the Glass functions – web, maps, photos and videos, etc. – demand that, yes, you do keep looking at it. It’s a surefire way to a quick headache.

And worse yet, you have to talk out loud to control the interface, making yourself seem like a babbling moron to those who are in your vicinity. Overall, Google Glass is uninspiring. As some folks may not know, I am no luddite. Though I adhere to many classic patterns, traditions, and embrace a whole lotta retro in my life, I am promiscuously digital in all respects. I long ago digitized my photo and music collections, and I have more than one eBook device, two Mac computers, and multiple iPad, iTouch, and iPod devices. I am continually fascinated with the next digital device that does things we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. But with Google Glass, the digital return you get as you strain your eye upward is barely passable and the functions are deficient.

I don’t know how this device offers an advantage in comparison to pulling out my Samsung S4 computer with it’s gorgeous 5″ screen that brings the world of information to my fingertips. Marketed as an extension of a cell phone, I’m just not seeing how Google Glass becomes a productive add-on to one’s cell phone at all. More likely, it seems to be an apparatus that appeals to the cyborg culture wherein the individual Glass wearer puts self-absorption just a tad closer to the brain that has now become one with a digital device while removing the Glass wearer from the realities of a human-based world where conversation, eye contact, body language, and human interaction skills matter. On her Facebook page after the citation dismissal, Miss Abadie is quoted as such: ”Yes, we can continue to be CYBORGS even when we drive!”

google glasses - Version 2

Google was kind enough to take a photo of me wearing the Glass.


My disparagement toward this robotic apparatus certainly won’t make me a luddite given my own digital love affair, but it will draw some chagrin from the connected crowd that rejects any criticism whatsoever of their electronic existence. Psychologist Sherry Turkle, who studies technology of mobile communication, calls the perpetual digital addiction the “central paradox” that changes what we do and who we are, allowing us to ”be together while not being together.” The Google Glass device takes the earthling cyborg well beyond the zone of useful technology that keeps useful information at our fingertips. It is very much a brazen statement about our existence and the lack of importance placed upon our relationships to those around us.

The Glass lurking in the corner of your eye is a constant reminder that you are always a short step away from experiencing the bliss of popularity amongst a crowd of one, thanks to the fact that you are brandishing a tool of extraordinary etiquette that will instantly irritate even the boldest supporters of digital identity.

Be Sociable, Share!
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to Culture of Narcissism Meets Google Glasses

  1. Helen Hubbard says:

    January 27th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    ”be together while not being together.” let me add to this: “be apart while we are together.” Because we surf the internet and text while sitting at dinner/lunch with friends.

  2. Bill Buth says:

    January 27th, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I felt the same way about Bluetooth headsets when they first started appearing… I laughed at the goofs walking down the street, seemingly talking to themselves, many gesturing as though there were an invisible person walking with them. Now I wear one, mostly at work because I’m on my feet most of the time, and it’s just more convenient to tap the headset when the phone rings instead of trying to dig it out of my pocket. I don’t know if I’ll ever need the constant stream of info that’s available on Google Glass, though. BTW, nice hat…

  3. clark says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 12:47 am

    LRC wrote, “Karen De Coster tries a pair on; you’d have to pay her to keep wearing them.”

    HaHaHa, that’s funny as all get out!… and, I think I can so relate.

    Yeah, maybe this is a blog post I’ll definitely have to read in the morning.

  4. clark says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 12:51 am

    O-m-G! I scrolled up and saw you wearing the Google Glass,… it was like seeing Picard as a Borg! Only worse!

    My eyes! My eyes!

  5. Chris says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 1:08 am

    The photo of you wearing the glass seems to strangely evoke the pyramid and the all seeing eye on the dollar bill. Do you suppose Google is trying to subconsciously tell us something?

  6. Narcissistic Google Glass | Michigan Standard says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 2:01 am

    [...] Read the rest of the article [...]

  7. George says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Thank you for the review.  From what I read of our nation’s next fighter plane the F-35, the thing that may kill it is the inability to get the helmet mounted display to work.  Years ago I tried a head mounted display that was supposedly good for video games to read spreadsheets, it was impossible after a few minutes. There is a good reason Virtual Reality headsets don’t exist, they jump around too much unless they can be bolted to your head, which might be the next trend after piercings.

    Another gone viral story of google glass follies.  

    AMC movie theater calls “federal agents” to arrest a Google Glass user
    By: Julie Strietelmeier on January 20, 2014 2:00 pm

    Amazingly it was ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations agents that were in the theater.  What’s up with that?   Was fashion police part of the enabling legislation.  

  8. Phillip the Bruce says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 10:21 am

    “Resistance is futile!” – Jean Luc Picard/member of the Borg Hive Collective

  9. James says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Well though the concept behind Google Glass is interesting it’s not worth it if it causes that much eyestrain. I’d ask you if you noticed any problems with depth perception afterwords but I don’t think you wore the system long enough for that to become much of an issue.

    Too bad Google isn’t going for a augmented reality system like Steve Mann uses, now that’s something I’d like to try (but definitely not use while driving). Perhaps they’re building up to that and this current Google Glass system is but a teaser for what they have in the works?

    Now something else I’d like to try is that Occulus Rift VR display, granted I don’t have any games that would really take advantage of it (yet?) but I’d still like to see how well the displays work. Oh wait, I think some people with the early demo systems have used them with the Minecraft game.

  10. Otaddy says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 10:51 am

    The Simpsons did a funny spoof of Google Glass on Sunday.  

    But Karen, you missed an essential concept of “The Culture of Narcissism”: You have to describe things using cute, childish names.  Think veggies, selfies, preggars, etc.  I suggest calling Google Glass, “glassies”!

    I agree with your comments about real conversation, but then again, conversation is not what it used to be either–it seems most just parrot phrases and ideas they heard on TV.

  11. David says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    It allows you to be with who you would rather be with instead of being with who you are forced to be with.

  12. MoT says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Just sit in your typical coffee shop in America and watch the death of conversation and personal one-to-one interaction. Heads down, tap tap tapping away, or typing on their computers, they’re in their own separate little worlds while somehow feeling the need to gather together in order to be so apart while paying for the privilege of doing it. Case in point would be my local book store where locals would bring laptops, or your typical fondle-slap devices, when they could easily do this from home. Why the “need”? Or the friend who joins you and other sorely missed associates only to text incessantly to some invisible other and never engages with those present. Why are you even there then?

  13. Geoffrey Transom says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    @Bill Buth – I totally agree (on the bluetooth headset thing).

    My beloved Mum, who is almost 70, wears a stereo BT headset paired to her Note II (which is too big to use as a phone): her long hair conceals the headset, so she walks around chattering as if to an invisible friend. It’s hilarious to watch (both Mum jabbering away to the ether, and passers-by shooting her “Are you off your meds” glances).

    I’m the same (but with short hair): I have one of those wrap-around BT headset like Mum’s.

    It must be somewhat disquieting for the Grand Public, seeing some gigantic doofus (I’m 6’2″, 240lb) walking around chattering as if to the air… but I wouldn’t have it any other way, because once the call is finished, my music starts up again.

    As for Google Glass – it was probably someone at Gawker who coined the perfect term for someone so self-absorbed that they want to wear such an obviously Orwellian device… glassholes. (I would have gone for “glasstards”).

  14. Charlie says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    “you can’t ban our way to safety.”
    A gentleman I used to work with more or less paraphrased the same thing: “Stupid proof, ‘yes’. Idiot proof, ‘no’”.

  15. Ric says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Your last paragraph has become the personal encapsulation of my disdain for this device. When I couldnt find the words you did and “extraordinary etiquette,” is it.

    I envision something akin to Google glass rage LOL

  16. Google Glasses, Meh | Reality 1.0 says:

    January 28th, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    [...] so says one reviewer (Karen De Coster), whose opinion I have come to trust and savor over the [...]

  17. Tommy Udo says:

    January 31st, 2014 at 11:22 am

    More electrono crap I don’t need. 

  18. The Motorcar Idiocracy - The Liberty Herald says:

    February 7th, 2015 at 11:31 am

    [...] wheels. It may not be cost-efficient, safe, or reliable, but I’ll look cool. You can bet I’ll be wearing my Google glasses, [...]

Leave a Reply