Friday, January 30, 2009

Death By Electronics

I recently returned from a week-long mountain sojourn. A blissful, relaxing week at a posh log cabin filled with friends, camaraderie, hot tub soaks, sightseeing, good food and drink and...all the electronic noise I could stand. So, on one hand, I've come back rested, relaxed and recharged. On the other hand, the next text message alert tone that goes off nearby may trigger a total meltdown.

Don't get me wrong. I ADORE this group of friends--think every one of them is a beautiful, socially conscious, smart, funny person. So if you're one of THOSE people reading this, don't take it personally, or even too seriously. But there were 13 of us, and about 13,000 gadgets. We had Wii, we had Guitar Hero, we had karaoke, we had a theater room and hundreds of movies, we had cell phones, IPhones, IPODs, game timers, laptops with video games going. We had intracabin social networking threads! So I had to ask myself (again), how much is too much connectivity? At what point do the portable communication suites stop being something we use and start being something that uses us?

I sat in my shop with a friend talking about this very subject not long ago. We were trying to get our brains around what has fueled the constant connectivity craze. I know I think and write about this a lot, but it confuses me in the same way the Vanity Press Phenomenon confuses me (everybody is publishing a book these days, but that's a subject for another post). My friend and I reached a somewhat uneasy conclusion--we believe it's...are you ready? Insecurity. Yep, the shifty-eyed monster. If I have 75 friends on Facebook who comment on my constantly updated status, then I must be important to them. If I get 42 text messages while I'm on the crapper, I'm loved. If I publish a blog and fourteen people take a minute out of their already electronically overloaded day to read it, I've said something that matters. Never mind that it imprints on their brains for about 1.2 seconds before they roll on to the next thing. I remember talking to a guy some years ago who said he'd put a network in his house so he and his wife could "talk to each other." At the time, that was really strange and funny to me. Today, it's pretty much the norm. I don't advocate going back to the dark ages before the Internet. I think it's generally done vastly more good than harm. Information availability, better world understanding, improved quality of life for millions--you name it. I just think electronic interaction is a poor substitute for the human touch and wonder what we as a society are losing because we're on a path to forget that.

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