For six months I lived the minor celebrity life of a Glasshole.
Image by the author
For six months I wore Google Glass almost every day. Eventually, I broke my Glass in half while partying with it. Over those six months, it literally changed my identity: I chatted up girls because of Glass; I was stopped multiple times by strangers every day; I recorded massive amounts of my life; and random strangers swore at me and called me a "Glasshole." It changed how others perceived me and how I perceived myself.
The initial transformation was gradual: I embarrassingly wore Glass for the first time at La Guardia airport for 20 minutes before taking them off, disturbed by people staring not at my eyes but just above them. Eventually I adjusted to walking down the street and having every third group of strangers murmur, "Hey, those are Google Glass!" likely aware that I could hear them.
The celebrity of being one of the first in Canada overtook me. A pickup truck full of guys swore "Glasshole!" as they drove by. My glasses were the perfect ice-breaker with a girl at the opening of an art gallery after she asked, "Are you really wearing those?" Throughout my experience, Jake with Google Glass was different to Jake without.
I had to reinvent etiquette at meetings. I would usually take them off just after shaking hands, but they were consistently the first subject of conversation. And in gyms and night clubs, where I would eventually destroy them, the ways and times I wore them and how people interacted with me were ever evolving.
When people asked why I owned Glass, I would explain that I run Functional Imperative, a software development company, and that they were good for marketing ("We're talking about them now, right?"), or how one of our partners in the US ran a consumer electronics website and had bought them for us. The students at our software development boot camp, Lighthouse Labs were enamored with them. But as I wore them more and more often, I realized that the device just became about the attention I was getting.
I wore them to Art Battle in Toronto several times. I would record the hundreds of dancing, gawking bodies watching live painting to loud DJs. I would record bike ride after bike ride, for no reason other than my own entertainment, capturing my zig-zags across Toronto's treacherous streetcar tracks and on one occasion another bicyclist falling off his bike at King and Yonge, a pretty insane intersection in downtown Toronto.
Glass even made me question my relationship with others. One night, in the dark, cramped, loud basement of a Toronto bar and music venue, I placed the Glass in my back pocket and almost instantly they disappeared. Scrambling on the floor with a nice, timid couple that had been sitting near me, desperately trying to find them amidst drunk dancing legs, I approached a black man standing immediately next to me and asked him if he'd seen them in an admittedly accusatory tone.
At that moment, the couple found them on the floor and my apologies began. The man could see the guilt in my face, and would have none of it. "Get out of my face!" he said, and I wandered away in some relief and mostly shame. Later, I wandered back to apologize again and he told me to get away before he punched me. I almost wanted him to, just to make me feel better.
In the end, Google Glass never worked particularly well for anything other than getting a reaction and filming the response, whether at networking events or house parties. Text messages and emails and voice recognition didn't work well for me to begin with, and as I clumsily dropped Glass and stepped on it, the little prism of a screen became less and less clear. But as a tool to capture attention, Glass was unparalleled.
Others came to identify me with Glass too: they were my signature look, the reason someone would remember me. The link between Glass and others' perception of me and my perception of myself became strong enough that the morning I awoke to find the Glass broken in half, I was notably depressed at their loss and at facing the prospect of changing my identity for the second time in six months.
Snapping a $1500 device in half is never a great way to start a day, but my unhappiness was deeper, tied to the reality that I would no longer be a minor celebrity based on this arbitrary techno-appendage.