A World of Our Own?

Technology is a beautiful thing. The conveniences it has given us and the simplicity it has made of once tedious work is nothing short of miraculous. But, in the words of one of my readers – are we enjoying the technology or is it enjoying us?

We have so many gadgets to give us creature comfort that we nearly never have to leave the house. As long as we have a computer, a phone, internet connection and a credit card we are set. We could easily begin to feel that really there is no one else in the world for all of the digging in we do in our little nests. We cocoon to coin a popular phrase.

It is any wonder that when we are actually out in the world our behaviour is less than amicable? We squeeze into spaces, nearly sending the car behind us in a ditch, but don’t notice because we have the a/c, stereo system and the cell phone going. We screech down residential neighborhoods at 3 a.m. with our music so loud it’s breaking crystal in someone’s house. We cut into line and don’t see the dismayed looks on other line mates’ faces. We yak to our friends while the movie is playing. Talk on cell phones anywhere, allowing all to hear everything there is to know about our lives, relationships and troubles. Our children run rampant, like wild animals through shopping malls, restaurants and groceries stores because we don’t believe in suppressing their desire to be free beings, even though they are giving everyone else mild heart attacks. We plug in our Ipods and giggle, gaggle and bang out the drum line on the table top, never noticing that the racket is bothering others.

All because of technology? Or is it us? Have we become so embedded in our own toys and gadgets of convenience that we no longer see the other people in the world. Or know that there are other people there? And when we notice them, are we confused by the strange or angry looks, the rude gestures? The stunned, gaping mouths?

It has been said of previous generations that it was all about me. But I’m wondering if that is a thing of the past or the present. Is the me generation still alive and well? If they lost their technology tomorrow, would they have the people skills and thinking skills to survive, to work in tandem with others and make it? Or would they just sit in a corner crying because they can no longer plug in, tune out and float in a world meant only for them? I wonder. Do you?

13 thoughts on “A World of Our Own?

  1. I think technology tends to enhance certain things rather than create them, at least in a social sense. The cell phone enhanced both people’s connectedness (at least in a superficial have-phone-can-call way), but it also enhanced the interruptions. I mean, think about phones and eating. It was always an issue (still is) between my parents that my mom would answer the phone during dinner. She’d sometimes not, knowing how it bothered my dad (dinner was family time for us), but you could see that it bothered her to let a ringing phone go unanswered!

    So take it to a cell phone at a restaurant, and nothing has changed. My mom will still want to answer the phone, and my dad still will be against it!

    I guess my point is that it really comes down to people, not technology. I think it is easier to be angry with technology than confront the people being rude. TVs make me angry, but it isn’t reasonable for me to be angry at an inanimate object. I don’t enjoy what gets played on them, I am not interested in tv’s, but the rudeness I’ve experienced in relation to tv’s comes from the people themselves.

    I do a fair amount of work on “causes” and while it is depressing that we need to do this work at all, it gives me some hope for the fact that people can and do still work together. And some of the young people are just amazing. As are the people who have been in the movement for 30+ years. And a host of people in between. The diversity itself is amazing.

    There is bound to be a lot of selfishness too. We’re human. That’s always been true, our propensity to be selfish. In the past, maybe we hid it better, but I think it was always there.

    Hey Deb,
    No, I’m not angry with technology, nor am I against it. As I said, it’s made all of our lives much easier in many ways. I guess the point I was trying to make is that we have become a little too yoked to our gadgets and conveniences – and perhaps this is one of those cautionary tales. I was really wondering what would happen if there were some sort of major power outtage, not for a day or two but months. How would we survive? Would some of us basically become basket cases without our gadgets? That sort of thing.

    Certainly people who have a propensity to being rude, are just ruder with their little toys in hand – I’m not sure it changes a person or their behavior per se – but it seems to accentuate some of the bad behavior more. Know what I mean?

    WC

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  2. You are right on! We are at the mercy of our cell phones, computers and credit cards. We have to remind ourselves to think. It’s become too easy to overlook other people as we have little need for them. I think 1 of 2 things may happen: We will get worse or we will get better because of these things. I’m thinking we’ll get better as we see others utilize new technology in a selfish way.

    Hi Keli,
    Nice to see you again.

    I don’t know if we will get better. I think that our dependence on these things have become so much second nature that in an emergency without benefit of them, few people would know what to do. How to get along without them and become possibly even mob-llike if the government didn’t ‘fix’ it right away.

    Remember that power outtage on the east coast a couple of years ago? Maybe longer. They were without power for 2-3 days and nasty complaining people were all over the news – criticizing the White House the state, everyone and everything. It was summer, the grid couldn’t handle the flow, it gave out. It was fixed in relatively short order but the complaining went on for weeks. When I was a kid, I remember power outtages, brown outs, black outs – yeah it sucked but I don’t remember people being that nasty about it. They went to the hardware store and bought flashlights, ice chests, etc. and worked it out. They helped each other. It’s that that I don’t see a lot of these days. The inclination seems to be more an attitude of ‘you’re inconveniencing me – fix it now!’

    Also, I’ve read articles that discuss the literacy rate is declining in this country and one of the sources was teenagers texting – with the ‘new’ shorthand created for texting, it seems kids are losing their ability to spell properly.

    I think when you have machines thinking for you all the time – you could end up in some trouble, if the machines ever break down and you’ve forgotten how to think for yourself.

    Sure, I love the internet, blogging, having the convenience of a cell phone and laptop. But if I lost my cell tomorrow, I’d still know I could call from a phone booth. I don’t need a keyboard to write, pen and paper do just fine. I got along for most of my lfie without the internet – there are still libraries and books and halls of records I could get information from. But I wonder if others would feel the same should they lose the little gadgets that don’t require them to think nearly as much as we used to.

    WC

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  3. This sort of reminds me of an alternate ending for Gilligan’s Island that my dad wrote. I have a point, I promise.

    In the episode (it was intended to be the final episode), Gilligan reveals that he’s not a dunce. He was purposely screwing up the rescue plans of his island mates. He wasn’t crazy, he was smart. He realised that The Skipper wasn’t happy being stuck on a tour boat. The Millionaires had all the money they could need, but not happiness. Ginger was, he figured, not content with being a movie star, with constant panderings from the paparazzi. The professor and Mary-Ann had their reasons for unhappiness, too. Gilligan wanted to keep them all on the island. They were happy there, away from civilization.

    I think we’re not happy in our present lives. I also think cell phones and all the technochocolates are partly to blame. How many times have you seen someone get pissed because their iPod or Blackberry or some other gadget stopped working? Frankly, we’d be much happier without all the complications of civility. We don’t have to be stuck on an island, but we can do with moderation.

    Humans want to be free, but technology just ends up owning them.

    I agree whole-heartedly DT. That episode sounds cute. Too bad it never got bought and produced.
    WC

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  4. Hi WC,
    I think it starts with philosophy. It made the individual supreme over community. It did this because other ‘collectivist’ philosophies led to big trouble – a world war for starters – and we needed a new philosophy that would never let us get in this state again.
    So the ‘individual’ became everything – and as time passed, products began to reflect this – toys moved from ‘communal’ games, to things you could play with on your own. And the kids begin to become acclimatised to individuality.
    Hence, when hi-tech really got going, it also reflected the inidividual and allowed us to ‘cocoon’ ourselves, making the situation even worse.
    And then tech got into our heads, making it easier to watch a video than read a book, where you would have to think about the concepts you were reading.
    And pretty soon, we are conditioned to be individual, and are losing the ability to imagine a time when it was different …
    … and that’s when the ‘machines’ really take over …

    Hey Anthony,
    Excellent assessment of the topic. Though as I was reading it, I started thinking it was the synopsis for a sci-fi story. Hmmmm
    WC

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  5. Hi WC,

    It’ll get worse soon. A bunch of that virtual reality stuff they had in The Matrix is coming soon. There have been several breakthrough steps in the technology in the last handful of years. I wonder if the sockets in the back of our necks will come in designer colors?

    the Grit

    Hey Grit,
    I was just thinking about that today. That the next improvement of the Iphone will be a computer chip imbedded into your arm or something and your fingers will be the keypad. Designer colors indeed. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  6. I’m one of the ones who still reads books at home and only turns on the cell phone when she’s driving in case she has an accident or needs to be picked up if the car dies. I don’t even own a credit card!

    I guess I’m just an old fashioned sixties kinda girl (yeah boy, a sixties girl with four computers in the house) as you mighta guessed.

    Hey, where are you people anyway? I could use some folks to come and keep me company on my blog once in a while, I’m lonely today! I’m coming to visit you too but first it’s naptime!

    Peace, love and gadgets.

    Hey Roobs,
    I’m more like you. I only got a cell phone for emergencies. I rarely have it on. I do have credit cards though – but I wasn’t thinking that was a big reflection on technology, now I’m thinking maybe it is. And I will always read books – reading something on a computer screen just doesn’t have the same feel to it for me. Especially a book. I want to cozy up with it, have my water glass nearby and fall into that universe for a while. Can’t hardly do that sitting in front of a computer, at least I can’t.

    I’ll be by to visit in a little bit. I planned to do some catching up tonight.

    WC

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  7. Wow, did you see the reactions of people when the Blackberry system crashed a couple of months ago? I’ve never seen so many suits about to cry in my life. I’m surprised by the perceived need we now have to be constantly and instantly connected to each other, whether it be through the internet or a cell phone or both at the same time (iphone anyone?). Interestingly, those two things connect us to others, yet leave us so isolated. When there’s no longer a need to have face to face contact, we as a species seem to prefer to avoid it. Since we’ve compressed our lives down to “I”, so many people have forgotten that they still coexist in a world of other people. I’m rambling again.
    Good post!

    Hey Karen,
    You’re not rambling at all. You are simply letting me know you got my point. And thanks, btw. You’re so right on about the no longer needing face to face contact and what it will and does do.
    WC

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  8. Good questions. Take away the technology and where would many people be? I am afraid that some would be lost, however I am confident that they would come around and find the fun they have been missing while they were wired.

    Hey Mark
    I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. I honestly don’t think they would come around and if they did, it would be begrudgingly. Ever try taking someone’s cell phone away from them for an hour? It’s like withdrawal. We have a policy at work, no cell phones on during working hours. The employees were so freaked out they had to take breaks every ten minutes so they could check their voice mail or whatever they check on them.

    Imagine these people trying to get along for two weeks or a month without them – they’d be basket cases.

    WC

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  9. I’m still here…me, me, me… I have had a cell phone glued to my hand for fifteen years (starting with “the brick”).. now its blackberry, laptop.. iPhone. Take all that away and my life becomes pointless. These toys subtley mask that problem.. And anyway they’re mine… so nobody can take them away.

    Hey Paul,
    I wouldn’t dream of taking your toys away. I am simply pointing out that we’ve become extremely dependent upon them and we should pay attention to that.

    Despite the fact that I have blogs and am online a lot – and do research and various other things – I’ve actually unplugged quite a bit. It was weird at first, I felt like I was missing an appendage – but actually I’m happier now. I actually don’t want anyone to be able to reach me 24/7 – I want to be left alone sometimes.

    But your lifestyle probably demands it – just sharpen up your camping/survival skills and you should be fine if a technology emergency hits. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  10. I think it’s technology, and fear. Fear of other people. And I blame the media. We don’t see any feel good stories about what people do to or for others, we only here about the murder and mayhem…all the bad shit. We are shitscared that the little old lady -who 10 years ago we would have helped across the street- may actually be the mugger not the muggee (is that a word??!) thanks to a carefully crafted disguise…..
    Blame the media. I do πŸ™‚
    Cheers ,Kelly

    Hey Kel,
    Yes, I think you’ve got a point. We have been slowly and consistently been trained to distrust our neighbors and fellow man and to see danger everywhere. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of the really hideous criminal acts are perpetuated by all of the attention they get in the news and mags and papers. I wonder if back in the day when we didn’t have 24/7 television, radio, millions of newspapers and magazines that glorify the bad behavior in people if those who may have had such impulses didn’t strive more to keep it in check because they feared being linched or worse.

    Although, I just finished reading a book about Jack the Ripper and I have to say this monster did unthinkable things and terrified all of London for a long time – so maybe my theory is wrong.

    WC

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  11. It’s kind of the Guns don’t kill people, People kill people argument in a way, isn’t it? There’s no doubt technology has improved a lot of things, but every good thing in society has its downside as well; every empowerment technology brings, gives someone the ability to use it for harm, or here to become more self-involved. I think it says more about us than about what we create; Virginia Tech is an example. If people weren’t so involved in their own routine, their iPods and cell phones and individual relationships, who knows if some of the signs might have been noticed?

    The thing I find interesting is that, for all the improvements we have, very little is really that different. Technology is better, but it’s still based on familiar forms. Cell phones are still phones; LCDs are still TVs. The things that catch on are those which enhance everyday life, not which radically alter it. I know Popular Mechanics made predictions about what would change from 1950, but few of their predictions came true because they were too outlandish. Meanwhile Star Trek predicted the cell phone because it was useful. Maybe that’s why if something did happen, if all our computers suddenly died, it wouldn’t be total chaos; because for the most part technology enhances our skill, it doesn’t replace it.

    It’s a fascinating What If, though. I might have to steal this! πŸ™‚

    Hey CJ,
    Yes, I guess it is one of those type of arguments. And you’re right, the technology hasn’t really changed that much just gotten smaller and more portable and sophisticated. But that being said, I’m talking about the effect its had on the current crop of what would be called the younger generation. The generation who never knew life without the gadgets and conveniences. We fossils who lived before cell phones, Ipods, the Internet, etc. grew up being more self-reliant and I think still have the critical thinking section of our gray matter somewhat intact.

    Between the p.c. approach to education, the subservient role parents seem to take with their children and the rearing thereof and the technology that enables you to never want for anything, I think we may be in for some trouble in the future.

    To me, it’s like unions. Good idea in theory – fair wages, decent working conditions, etc. turns into people punching a clock and doing little if anything because they know they can’t get fired and have guaranteed wages. Which creates and maybe I should say destroys the will to excel and removes the impetus of working hard to get what you want. We no longer have to. Hell, even the poorest in this country walk around with cell phones and other gadgets. They can’t spell, or in some cases even speak english, but they sure do know how to get and use a cell phone, download crap from the internet and work the system.

    What do you mean by steal the idea? πŸ˜†
    WC

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  12. Great post. I often, seems a bit more lately, turn off the volume on my PDA and ignore it and actually have achieved forgetting it exists for periods of time. I also mandate electronic breaks. I am convinced that I have allowed technology to creep inside my otherwise open and perhaps still uncluttered spaces in my mind. Thanks for the reminder as I sit and type on my laptop!

    LOL – that’s what they call irony, isn’t it? πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  13. Well, I’ll be turning 23 next month, but I’m not really sure which generation I fit into. I’m young enough to own an iPod and know technology, but old enough to have not grown up with the ‘net in school, so there’s a bit of a gap. One thing I think is that the way we look at technology is a bit of a cultural issue as well; it’s slightly different in Aus than in the US and Canada (different again in Japan). We were so distant from most of the world for so long, that what technology and the ‘net has brought us now is largely seen as a positive thing. The standards we expect of technology aren’t as high (perhaps to our detriment), and so on the whole we look at technology more positively. But that might just be my perspective. πŸ˜‰

    My main thing with technology is that I don’t like it to run my life; if it makes something easier (like listening to music or chatting), great, but if I find myself relying on it, that’s when I’d rather do without the aid. I feel like that with calculators; my mind just goes to mush! My fear for if technology were to disappear isn’t so much would we survive, but what would we lose with it, which I think is what you were saying too. Our history, our language, our culture, would all break down within generations; within 100 years there would be no-one left who remembered what went before, and then what would we have left?

    Fascinating post, though, WC. My head’s still spinning.:) By the way, by steal I meant I might feel inspired to write a post of my own… or a poem. I tend to do that. πŸ˜‰

    Hey CJ,
    Interesting that the view is so different in Oz than here. Like you said, perhaps because it is new and you guys have been out on that big ol’ island retreat for a long while.

    Yes, because everything now is on computer/internet we would lose so much if it all went caput. It’s a little scary to think about – one of the reasons, I keep hard copies of certain things and a certain amount of cash laying around for the worst case scenarios.

    Oh, feel free to do a post or a poem or whatever, no worries. I was just teasing you.

    WC

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