Sunday, September 28, 2008

Technoslaves

When I was a kid, there were two ways for regular people to talk to each other: in person and by telephone. This absence of options made parting with someone either a) sweet sorrow, or b) relief. Sorrowful partings were usually followed by a brief communication hiatus and then more contact, typically via telephone. And the relieved partings? They were followed by a lightness of heart, the knowledge that your duty was temporarily done, and further contact with that person was unlikely for at least awhile.

Along the way, cordless phones emerged, and the power of unfettered technology intrigued gizmo lovers everywhere. Those who could, did purchase the first ridiculously expensive cell phones as soon as they were available—huge, awkward contraptions especially when compared to their corded counterparts. But as people used and adjusted to them, distrust and fear of the new gadgets subsided, and the phones themselves became smaller and cuter. Then their techie accomplices, accessories and “improvements” came on board to form an army of accessibility: Blackberries and Bluetooth, IM and ipods, texting and twitter, and internet and photos via cell. Suddenly, I am capable of blogging from my phone. (Well, not from my phone—I don’t have enough bells and whistles on the equipment itself or my plan. But I could if I so choose to upgrade!) I could send messages during a movie or a meeting—I could check email as I simultaneously picnic in a meadow. I could tell people exactly what I’m doing every minute of my life. I could broadcast myself sleeping. And I could watch and listen and blab blab blab with the rest of the world while everyone else does the same thing.

The question is this: Why would I want that? I bought my first cell phone in order to get rid of my more expensive landline. My initial and enduring attraction with email and the web is still the same today as it was at the beginning: I can use it at my own convenience, in my own time, and it doesn’t necessitate face-to-face encounters. I haven’t been labeled as introverted for nothing; I need my space. Why would I want to take advantage of all these tools when they take away my precious space?

Always accessible. Incessantly in touch. No mystery remains. All this technology and its popularity directly reflects the “out there for all to see” tone of our society. Reality TV? Tell-all gossip channels and magazines? Tattletale biographies? Online surgeries? Even the increasingly revealing, often unflattering fashions of the day highlight the fact that we are a culture that hides nothing—including ourselves. What's so bad about privacy? I like it. And why is it a tragedy to find yourself in a dead zone? Being unreachable gives me a sense of that old relief I used to feel when I happily wrapped up a telephone call that was sucking the life from me.

I guess that’s why I feel more and more like an interloper in this world: because there are plenty of times when I want, and need, to hide. I think I’ll just stick to email and the blog; they should serve me well. If you want to comment here, that’s great—and if you want to talk, just give me a real, old-fashioned telephone call or stop by: those are still the best means of chatting most of the time.

5 comments:

chris h. said...

We are much alike -- two introverts who like their space who (fortunately) met and became friends. (I am another one who doesn't like the phone -- I'll happily talk with friends, but anyone else, it's a chore.)

P.S. Love the snappy new blog look.

Mel said...

glad I'm not alone! I just need to learn to stop apologizing for not being extroverted... and thanks for the comments re: new look--wondered if anyone would notice. trying to look a bit autumnal...

Athelas63 said...

the saddest of all is the parents yakking on the cell phone while they push their little ones through the grocery story or down the park path. That used to be "Mommy & me" time, looking at squirrels or talking about how yummy cheesy popcorn is. Now the poor kid just vegetates while mom or dad blathers on. At least he'll only be stuck there until he's old enough to get his OWN phone... say - FIVE or SIX?

Facie :-) said...

I hate a lot of technology, but I have to say, once I got a cell phone with a decent calling plan a handful of years ago, I was able to call my mom for free (in-network). This results in our talking almost daily, which I realize would be too much for a lot of moms and daughters.

The other thing I love about the cell phone, but I see the obvious and sad downside, is that it enables you to meet people late or figure out a meeting place once you get somewhere. Bad because people use it as an excuse to do those things, but good for when you get stuck in traffic and are trying to meet someone for, say, a Steelers game.

I do miss writing letters and listening to mix tapes sometimes. I am probably one of a very few people in my 30s who does not own an ipod or something like that.

Mel said...

facie, I don't have an ipod either. and I, too, miss letters and real cards--so I still send them sometimes, as a "blast from the past." real paper! handwriting with ink! rad! and yes to athelas--I want to yank the phone from those people's hands and say, "Talk to your kid instead, please. They are also people who can converse." it's no wonder children don't know any better.