“Augmented Times,
Under the bright skies of a summer day,
A crowd streamed through Heisler Park, so many,
I had not thought social media had undone so many.
Comments, brief and isolated, were blurted,
And each person locked their eyes upon a smartphone.”

(Adapted from “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot)

The enduring fascination and importance, for me, of T.S. Eliot’s modernist, compressed epic poem “The Waste Land” (1922) is that it is at first obscure and intimidating, but opens up and rewards readers with the power of poetic “allusion“.¬†Eliot seeks “to express an age through expression of self“.

How have billions of people come to express themselves in our “New Media Age”?

By uploading and posting photos, selfies and videos from their smartphones to social media sites. Pictures (“worth a thousand words”) are the ultimate form of compression, with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest allowing members to create epic moments.

The people in Laguna Beach reminds one of Eliot’s crowd that “flowed over London Bridge”. The beauty of the ocean, rocky coastline and beaches obscured as they stared at the small screens of their iPhones. Turning a picturesque reality into a virtual one. Self-expression to a thousand friends.