A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I love the Internet, but here are a few casualties of our increasing dependence on technology.
Telephone Books — One of the first was the telephone book. When I was a kid, everybody had a telephone book. The first thing you did when you got a new one was find yourself in it. It was an opportunity, as a little kid, to actually see that you had a place in the bigger world. However, the best use of the telephone book was, on lazy afternoons, looking up people with funny names. One year, Mrs. Cranston’s entire 4th grade class laughed for weeks when Marvin L. Ramsbottom moved to town.
Maps — Before the Internet, maps had the ability not only to place you in the world physically but to distinguish you from the billions of other humans occupying it –philosophically. Back in the day, every kid knew this and to prove it they would eventually write their name, their address, their city, their county, their state or province, their country, their continent, their hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe. And it all started with a little finger pointing on a map. Practically, however, maps were the exclusive property of dads and were notorious for being badly folded, badly drawn and just plain wrong. Eventually, all maps ended in a parental argument over exactly when to abandon middle-class machismo, stop the car and ask for directions.
Money — Incredible as it may seem, before the Internet, money was a tangible object. It had weight. It made a noise. It told us just exactly where we stood in the world — because it was finite. We either had enough money or we didn’t, and after a few trial and error disappointments, we discovered that the world is full of choices. When bus fare, movie and popcorn were beyond our financial capability — somebody was going to walk. Of course, all kids knew money was important because their parents were constantly reminding them that a) they (the parents) weren’t made of money, b) it didn’t grow on trees and c) they weren’t going to throw good money away on that (whatever it was we thought we wanted.)
So, what have we learned?
1 — Smart phones have put us all in me-and-mine electronic ghettos.
2 — Technology doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our unique position in the world.
3 — The near infinite nature of digital money has destroyed our ability to make decisions.
4 — Technology can suck the fun out of life.