When my sister was little, she thought she might be a song-rememberer when she grew up. Ha ha, we used to say, recognising the unfortunate chasm between her special gift and an actual job description.


These days, song-remembering, and remembering lines from films, TV and even Youtube, is conversational capital as everyday as “do you come here often?” and as revealing as “Mary is it? I’m the Prince of Denmark. Like a drink?”


In fact, quoting cultural references is so par-for-the-course that a new faux pas has emerged wherein the answer to the question “What’s that from?” results in the devastating answer “It’s not from anything”. I committed this sin last week. After laughing at something funny, I asked, “What’s that from?” and I could tell straight away it wasn’t from anything. Because it’s a bit of a slap in the face for the bonding experience, isn’t it, when you inadvertently accuse someone of being unoriginal only to be told you’ve mistaken reality for an episode of Buffy 


This is why I can’t play video games. The bleeding of technology into real life can be disconcerting. After playing Tetris, I find myself trying to fit parts of the skyline into cloud formations like it’s a jigsaw I have to solve. The plane-landing iPhone app Flight Control had me cutting corners on my walk to work, mentally mapping pedestrians’ flight paths. I don’t do it deliberately, I just recognise the mental pattern from somewhere, and remember: Flight Control. That tracksuitpanted power-walker has to get to the drinking fountain before I do, or I can’t beat my high score.


Technology is such an extension of the human brain that mental slippage can happen anywhere. If you’ve worked in an office, chances are you’ve experienced the sensation of thinking your mouse won’t work and looking down to find you’re drawing circles on your desk with your phone. Once, I found myself pressing Control Z in order to undo something I’d thought.


So do these things dilute reality? Possibly. But as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. Maybe the feeling of being diluted by technology comes with the feeling of being reinforced by it. Cultural references are your friends, your teachers.


Someone said to me recently, “Walk with me”, and I felt instantly somehow important. I realised later this is because of the West Wing, but you know what? Good on it. For thirty seconds, I was CJ Cregg. It’s not long enough, sure. But it’s a start.



A version of the above originally appeared in The Big Issue, which is an excellent magazine that you should go out and buy immediately for a range of reasons only some of which are to do with the fact that I am possibly in the upcoming edition as well.