Caroline Fitzgerald (who asked that her real name not be used in order to avoid terrifying the few single men left in New York City) is afraid of the future. The 28-year old lawyer isn’t scared of self-driving cars, genetically modified foods or a third Bush in the White House. She is scared of Google Glass, and an imminent future where most people have them. If Jennifer Lawrence is rocking them, are the rest of us that far behind.
“I want to find my husband before Google Glass becomes a thing everyone wears,” Fitzgerald told me over coffee following what she describes as “the most tragic evening of her life,” with an engineer she met through a friend of a friend.
The gentleman, let’s call him Dan, was one of the lucky early adopters of the wearable technology and he proudly sported them on his date with Caroline to a hole in the wall bar on the Lower East Side. The fact that Dan had Glass at all was an anomaly. The product won’t hit the consumer market until 2014 and only a very small group has access to the version that is still essentially a prototype.
Fitzgerald was initially intrigued. “Can I try them?” she asked. The answer was no. Dan was incredibly protective of his toy. “I’ve never been more self-conscious on a date,” Fitzgerald told me. “I couldn’t tell what he was doing.” But the worst part, as she describes it, is that Dan was never fully present on their date. “I felt like he was doing something else the entire time we were sitting there.”
One of the ways that Glass is operated is by the wearer making a series of taps against the frame. “He tapped the side of his head the entire night, so much that it felt like he had a nervous tick,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know if he was taking pictures or video of me or what the hell was happening.”
There is a pretty great video by comedian Dartanion London from earlier this year that shows the worst version of what Fitzgerald was imagining was happening entitled “How Guys Will Use Google Glass.” In it London first uses Glass to search for information about his date. When he discovers she is a fan of Downton Abbey, he uses the device to do a quick Google that will make him an expert on the series. He comes up with some great trivia about Maggie Smith. For me that is a win on any date. He then tunes her out by watching a live feed of a football game out of the corner of his eye, playing Minesweeper, and ultimately live streaming his date to his friends. The first two things are pretty standard issue with my own boyfriend and his iPhone. But the third? No way.
“Sorry, I don’t date guys that use Google Glass,” London’s date says at the end of the video. Like Fitzgerald, should we be terrified of the near future where wearable technology becomes commonplace before someone has finally perfected the Hoverboard?
To be fair, the introduction of Glass will probably change dating less than the invention of the smart phone which promised that no one would ever truly be alone on a date ever again. Search engines already allow us to know everything about a new person we are about to go on a date with and our smart phones allow us to search for that person even as we’re sitting at a table with them under the guise of checking an important email from our boss.
We are already constantly distracted by the technology at our fingertips. I have to remind myself to put my phone the hell away during quality time with the boyfriend, but sometimes I just want to play Candy Crush like so bad!
Another early Glass adopter told me they believed wearing the product made them more, not less present. “I don’t constantly grope for my phone. I turn them on, do what I need or want to do and turn them off. They are less addicting than my phone and I feel like I cause less of a disruption,” they informed me.
An important thing to note about Glass is that it isn’t a living and breathing attachment to your face. Most of the time it will be off. If you haven’t interacted with it for 10 seconds it will power down so it wouldn’t be on during a date, doing things that you wouldn’t be able to see without your date knowing. It is designed to make it very obvious when it is on, so your date can’t be sneaky about turning it on and off without your knowledge.
Yes, you can do searches, take a photo or video, make phone calls, send texts, share photos and do a video chat, but you aren’t powering it with your mind or even a Bewitched style blink. You are active and as obvious as someone grabbing their phone and performing a similar function under the table. That is why Dan looked like he had a nervous tick. Dan may also have had a nervous tick. We can all agree that there was a lot wrong with Dan.
The truth is that the person who uses Google Glass like a jerk isn’t the kind of person you will likely want to date anyway, unless of course you are also the kind of person who thinks quality time is time shared with another person while you are both on your smart phone.