Saturday, August 27, 2016

I Am Not a Luddite!

"I hate to say it, but I come from an era when we weren't consumed by technology and television."
~Jimmy Buffett

I come from the same generation and don't hate to say it. Having recently returned from a trip to Santa Barbara, my first flight in almost two years, I saw signs of folks consumed by technology, glued to cell phones and computers, rarely noticing their surroundings whether sitting in the airport, walking down the street,  even across from tables in restaurants.  To a degree that I found confusing and disconcerting. So much so that my reactions have remained with me since my return, hovering like an incipient headache.  

Before I share my observations and my concerns, a disclaimer.  As a member of one of the last generations to remember ice boxes, party lines, and wringer washing machines, the humid heat of Midwestern summers before air conditioning and hanging clothes in the basement in the winter, I  appreciate the modern conveniences that technology has produced. I wax lyrical over small appliances - love my Keurig coffee maker, thank the inventor of the electric can opener- and there must surely be a place in heaven for the creators of the microwave.  I have a cell phone, enjoy my Kindle, e-mail, Skype and use Facebook.  In short, I am not a Luddite.

I am, however, also not a techie, nor do I desire to become one.  Because as a member of my generation,I also remember the joy of receiving a handwritten letter and the pleasure of long conversations with a friend.  I had fewer friends, but I knew them, had a shared history.   I listened to the radio, played board games, pursued hobbies. The family doctor came to my home and didn't push prescriptive drugs.  I didn't have to ask people to put their phones away or look at me when I talked to them.  The bullies on our playgrounds had faces and names.  Information came into my world at a pace I could digest, understand and discuss in depth.

So, I would rather discuss a problem in person or over the phone, (a land line preferably); I will not bring my cell phone to a meal and don't instant message.  I journal my most private thoughts in a  notebook using a ballpoint pen.  I tape tv programs so I can eliminate the constant barrage of commercials suggesting I may need a new drug that I suspect will be recalled within a couple years for its side effects.  Increasingly, I choose to listen to music or read a book, a real book, or pursue a hobby. 

It can be argued that my generation doesn't need all the networking technology or that because we're retired, we have the time to write letters, have long conversations.  Or, as too often is the accusation, that we are afraid of the technology or too old to learn new tricks.  I maintain that some of us are making conscious choices, to communicate deeply, to take charge of how we spend time, to curtail the distractions, to control technology rather than let it control us.  

We don't need to defend this choice.  Or apologize.  Indeed, we may be one of the last generations to understand it is a choice.


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