In this week’s Hey, You Stinkin Kids Stay Off My Lawn news, Bob Herbert thinks these darn technological devices are ruling our lives, destroying our attention spans, dulling our senses and just ruining beautiful moments in general.
And it’s true that when Anne of Green Gables got married, nobody was texting under the table at the reception. When Lydia Bennet eloped, she didn’t announce it on Facebook (but I think we can agree she totally would have). The Jazz Singer had to be promoted by word of mouth instead of via preview screenings before which cell phones were checked at the door. And I’m willing to buy that flowers smelled better, the sun shone brighter, waves crashed more tenderly to shore and violin serenades wafted gently through the air.
But, cry out hordes of internet devotees, technology brings people together too. I spent Saturday afternoon outside in the sun with 20-30 people I’d never met before. Of the few I did know, I’d met in them person only a handful of times but we talk practically every day. We aren’t sending telegrams or feeding pennies to the rotary phone in the booth over at the corner drugstore. We’re writing tweets, commenting on facebook walls, commenting on blog posts.
These would be the two pro and anti-technology arguments. The geezers vs. the whippersnappers. The "We fell in love at first sight across the train platform" vs "We met on Match.com." "Nobody ever makes eye contact anymore" vs "Thank goodness I don’t have to accept the attentions of random strangers on the subway now."
Both sides have been trotted out again and again and again and again. Some bloggers get up in cyberarms because they are outraged that their very real online friendships are being denigrated.
Or because those of us with social anxieties or awkwardness or physical disabilities have found a balm at Gilead.net and hate the thought of losing it.
Or because it’s not like people were constantly reaching out and connecting with strangers before. Minding your own business has always been a thing.
Or because it’s only natural to want to carry your preferred genre of personal entertainment around with you whether it’s a book, a sketchpad, a music player or a communication device. In middle school people wrote games for their graphing calculators, for crying out loud.
To me, the "You kids get off my lawn" argument never holds water because of the two last points. Granted the pace of living today is faster, and people who watch movies in their cars are taking a much bigger risk than the Victorian who strolled through the park with her nose in a book. But these are stupid people. I’m sure there were stupid Victorians who wrote in their journals while traipsing in front of moving fire wagons. Maybe people back in the day spent a lot of time just staring into space and thinking. Or maybe what they were thinking was "God I wish it didn’t take two weeks to hear back from my friend in San Francisco." I’m pretty sure humans weren’t just waiting for the introduction of in-ear headphones to block the outside world. The door was invented way before that.
Obviously, I’m pro-technological living. I blog, I twitter, I facebook, I text.
Shockingly, I also enjoy being off the grid sometimes. I may have to put my laptop in my sock drawer, turn off my phone and let my iPod battery die to achieve it, but none of that is super difficult since none of my personal electronics were sent from Skynet to kill me. They pretty much turn off when I tell them to and stay that way.
I’m sorry if life moves too fast for Mr. Bob Herbert these days, but technology only plays the role in your life that you allow it to play. Seriously. No matter what the modern world is coming to, he’s not going to be able to control the way other people adopt and adapt to pretty devices with cool buttons that let them reach out or isolate from other people as they please.
And writing whiny articles that remind me I’m not kissing anybody AND that I don’t have an iPad isn’t going to endear him to me.
Or to anyone, really, except the field of 3Q commenters who chimed in with things like "If I’d known what the technology would turn into, I would never have helped invent the cell phone." Psssh. Yes you would, if only to have a way to call after people to ask "Why are you running away from meeeee???!!?"