Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today, someone selling e-readers on TV, uttered the words, "Books are no longer made of paper," causing me to run in small, tight circles in the kitchen. "Books," I spat back (truth be told, I whined back, but spat sounds plucky) are, most certainly--by definition--made of paper!" Unlike the soul-less gizmos with silly names flooding the market right now, books are, well, books

They smell like books--older ones, dusty and musty. New ones,crisp and fresh.You can rest them on your lap and drift into a reverie or hurl one in anger without causing it to whirr, shudder and go dark. I do realize that I am a dinosaur, a greying fart-ess with a grudge against technology. I'm also, obviously, a hypocrite as I blog daily, relying on technology to bring my words into your homes. It's a confusing time for my generation.

Here's a column that acknoledges that technophia is purely generational but also raises a question or two. I am very interested in what you think....

The End of Ideas

I am about to launch myself off into Candlewood Lake in a little boat where I intend to live, accepting only occasional visits from Seth who will bring news from home, 100-calorie snack packs, Diet Coke and crossword puzzles.The reason for this disconnection from daily life is due to something I learned today. There is, it seems, an I-Phone App (The “Cry Translator”) that will “listen” to and interpret the sound of your infant’s crying. It will then tell you whether the baby is hungry, tired, cranky or suffering from a full diaper. A phone. Your baby’s cries. Life of isolation, take me.

Who will get this app? If I am about to offend you, I will not be apologizing any time soon because if it's YOU, I think you’re nuts. It’s bad enough that you are never without your phone.That you keep it in your hand most of the day, checking it every few minutes for a new text or, worse, that you tippy-tap away while engaged in conversation with me. Sometimes you take a call while we’re together, pretending to care by asking me if I mind because “it’s important.”You don’t wait for my response and, actually, I do mind.    
I fully acknowledge that my discontent is totally generational. I recently read of a study that says people over 50 react far more negatively to this sort of thing. The younger set—my sons’ generation—appears to have been successfully indoctrinated into this new world. I rarely see a young person sitting idly anymore. While waiting for a friend or a train or the apocalypse, they are immersed in what’s happening on a tiny screen. Travelers in buses gaze upward at monitors over their seats instead of observing the world outside their windows. People walking on a city street or a country road talk animatedly while passing beneath blooming trees in spring and blazing trees in fall—glorious canopies of leaves or blossoms ignored while they chat, merrily gesturing to no one. Kids are pacified by videos in minivans as their parents drive. I suppose I can understand the rationale for this although we drove to Minnesota and Florida and Mississippi with two very small boys who entertained themselves with conversation, books and toys that required some imagination. When can we expect anyone to actually have an idea anymore—to muse, to dream, to have a creative flash or an inspirational revelation?  I’m scared that no one will ever have an idea again.
Not to mention, with video games that are marketed as good for your hand-eye coordination, my boys’ generation and those to follow may learn to expect immediate responses and gratification with the stroke of a key or the twirl of a joystick. I fear it may lead to a population which will expect that same immediacy from friendships, relationships and marriages.
Maybe I’m totally wrong. I hope I am because unless the electricity goes out permanently, God forbid, there’s no stopping this train. There will be I-Phone Apps that will pick your noses for you soon. Am I glad that my friend’s phone can instantly tabulate what each of us owes at the diner or that, at four in the morning, I can google how old Marlo Thomas is these days (she’s 72)? Yes. But I would forgo these cute little conveniences in order to return to a world that requires more thinking and fewer keyboards. 
When my generation is gone (our obituaries immediately circulated on screens that have been implanted in the optic pathways of our great-grandchildren's frontal lobes), the younger set can click away unhampered by cranky old witches like myself and hold up their magic little phones to their babies all they want. By then robots will be changing diapers and helping with homework anyway. I can be reached in the middle of Candlewood Lake for anyone who cares.  You’ll have to come out, in person, to talk—I’m leaving my phone at home.

1 comment:

  1. I will say, having a Kindle keeps all my books in one place, which allows me to take books on the plane, bus, or wherever without having to lug a heavy bag and also saves me money on text books. So, I love my Kindle, book blasphemer I may be :)

    At the same time, I do agree about other technologies. I've found that taking a break from my iPod allows me to reconnect with people. If I'm having a coffee or a drink with someone, I won't pick up my phone. I'm investing time in the person/people I'm with, not the person on my phone. They can wait their turn (unless it's an emergency).