Friday, June 20, 2008

In Defense of the Lo-tech Lifestyle

I just realized how much I hate technology. This realization developed slowly over the course of the day, and it began when I woke up from a TERRIBLE nightmare in which a Blackberry was stuck to my face.

Roused by my own frantic facial-clawing, I was relieved to remember that I don’t even own a Blackberry. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t annoy me on a daily basis. Also, I used to own one, until it was stolen by a little Brazilian kid in Rio. Sucker! He has no idea what that thing is going to put him through.
Technology—and Blackberries in particular—are really offensive for three main reasons:
  1. With technology comes obligation (in myriad forms).
  2. With technology comes a tendency to think that technology makes you important.
  3. With technology comes oblivion—a state of never-being-in-the-moment because your technology is always connecting you to other moments. I know that’s mesmerizingly profound… bear with me.
First, let’s talk about obligation. A lot of recent graduates are all excited when their new bosses hand them their first Blackberries. They think they’ve “arrived.” (I did). If arrival means never being more than a few tiny-baby-keystrokes away from your boss, then yes, you’ve arrived. But your personal life—not to mention your soul—is in great peril.

The culture of obligation also extends to regular cell phones, email, Facebook, etc. If you are connected, you are expected to respond, promptly and wittily. I much prefer the days when communication happened either face-to-face or by Pony Express. If it took you six months to respond to a letter, who cares? You could just blame it on the pony. Nowadays, there is nary a pony left to blame.

Ok, now onto the whole technology-as-status issue. Just because you walk around with a goofy Bluetooth thing attached to your head doesn’t mean you can hold up the “Just a sec” finger when I try to talk to you. By the way, you look like you have a little alien feeding off the side of your face. It’s ridiculous.

And finally, the technology-induced oblivion. It’s the anti-Zen. It’s like never really connecting to your immediate environment because you’re always wondering whether JoJo has gotten your Facebook poke. But let’s think about this. What’s more interesting: sitting on the subway watching some reality show on your iPod’s tiny screen? OR, sitting on the subway and watching some crazy person deliver a religious diatribe? For me, there’s no contest.

And let’s say you’re waiting to meet someone at a bar. You’re alone. You’re feeling kind of awkward. To combat this natural alone-at-a-bar awkwardness, you foolishly decide to catch up on text message correspondence. Or maybe you just gaze into your phone as if there’s something really important in there. Or maybe you have a fake phone conversation in which you tell a lot of jokes. (I have firsthand experience with all of these strategies). While you’re doing these things, however, you’ve failed to notice that the bartender dropped your lime on the floor before putting it into your drink. Also, the guy in the corner has no pants on.

I’m done ranting now. But this is more than a rant; this is a call to action. I move for a return to good old-fashioned landlines, snail mail, telegrams—the works! If you must be hi-tech, you can go for something like this (with Zach Morris on speed dial). None of this Blackberry-holster-on-your-belt stuff!

Some of you iPhone-loving whippersnappers might have a problem with this post. If so, respond below and I’ll get back to you when I feel like it. My carrier pigeon has polio, so it might take a while.

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