Wednesday, May 14, 2014




A Facebook friend of mine, an accomplished writer and humorist, posted this to her Facebook page yesterday:



The "avocado green beauty" she refers to is an actual typewriter and George is one of her young sons.  I understand why she is doing this.  It'll make for an interesting story.
 
She further explained that:
 
 
 
Her experiment reminds me of a PBS series that aired a few years ago called "1940s House" in which a modern London family lived as they would have during World War 2.  According the series' website,
for nine weeks, the Hymer family lives in a house that is restored to copy the way a middle-class family would have lived in England during World War II. They get hair cuts and new wardrobes authentic to the 1940s era so that they may better play the part of the times. So for nine weeks, the family forsakes the Wii, Playstation, television and telephone so that they can immerse themselves in a total historic reenactment that is accurate and sincere.
The show made for good television, but the family came away from the experience with a better appreciation for modern amenities. And world peace.  Definitely world peace.
 
There is in our society a backlash against the creeping intrusion of technology.  While this technology is supposed to simplify some of life's daily tasks and make us more connected, it is, according to critics, actually alienating us from one another.  We put in our earphones and cut ourselves off from the rest of the world.  We communicate by text or social media rather than by using the verbal communication skills that have elevated our species to the preeminent position in the animal kingdom.   No one knows how or when to write a real letter anymore, While the U.S. Postal Service thinks this is a swell development, it nevertheless is another sign of our crumbling civilization, they say. 
 
Technology's allure is undeniable, however.  Always has been. Why would anyone not take advantage of the instant communication now available to us?  Is Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or iTunes really robbing us of our humanity?  Technological advancements speed up the pace of life and that's what scares people.  It's not the science that frightens us–does anyone really fear a robot-controlled future–what frightens us is that our competitive nature compels us to pack more and more into the time allotted to us each day. We always have to be doing SOMETHING.  Doing nothing is lazy and unacceptable.   This experiment is her attempt at doing less and being comfortable with it, I think.
 
We have always been about doing things more quickly.  The transcontinental railroad was built because it seemed silly to have to spend three months sailing around the tip of South Africa in order to get from New York to San Francisco. Human history is full of such examples.  The Northwest Passage, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, railroads, the telegraph and then the telephone, the airplane, the automobile, heck, even the wheel.  All of these advancements resulted from our desire to transport either ourselves, information, or goods more quickly from point A to point B.   Almost every human invention has had the effect of speeding up life. It's what we do. The reasoning is that if we can accomplish more quickly the things that we HAVE to do we will have more time to do the things that we WANT to do.
 
So, back to my friend.  Her children are like six and three, I think.  No television for them.  No tablet computers or computers at all.  No electronic stimulation.  I see what she is doing here. Given that this younger generation may have a problem with video game addiction, for their sake this seems like a healthy undertaking. Childhood lasts only so long and parenting really is our most important job so she is going to put aside the things that seem less important in order to be a  parent that we would all would like to be if we had unlimited time, patience, and a fascination with children's board games and crafts. Can she really play unlimited amounts of Candyland and Monopoly without cracking up?  I guess we are going to find out.  
 
We didn't have video games when I was a child and since my mother wasn't what you would call a "helicopter parent" I had to find ways to entertain myself. So...
 
I rode my bike behind the mosquito man, breathing in oceans of what probably was DDT. 
I played with matches and started fires. 
I smoked cigarettes.
I shoplifted (and got caught). 
I got in dirt clod and rock fights with my friends.
I rode my bike the wrong way in heavy traffic.
I only looked one way before crossing the street.
I held lit fireworks in my hand until the last possible second. 
I broke my teeth and limbs during unsupervised play.
I didn't wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming.
I played in creeks and streams full of copperheads and water moccasins.
I dared the undertow to pull me out to sea.
 
Somehow, I am still here.
 
Technology connects us so her unilateral tech boycott has ramifications for those beyond her nuclear family. While she is listening to Kasey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown on her AM Radio while sipping lemonade and making macaroni necklaces with her children her friends will struggle to adjust. Do they really want to get in the car and "come by" to take care of something that can be accomplished now with a 30-second phone call? Yes, she will have a landline, but what about when she is not home? She will be absolutely, positively unreachable. Her technology vacation will make more work for everyone else.
 
That's inconceivable!
 
Maybe this all will go well for her family and they will all enjoy their unplugged summer. However, just imagine how many hours she will be have to spend going through 70 days' of unread email when she goes online again.  She probably won't see her kids for days. That'll teach her!

1 comment:

  1. I'm torn. I can certainly understand why she wants to connect more closely with her family, and indeed the screens need to be limited at their ages. But I agree with you: technology allows us to be 'closer' to a wider range of people. For example, you and I probably wouldn't be in touch or have had the chance to have dinner together when you were last in town if it weren't for FB.

    The irony of tech innovation and efficiency is that the faster we go, the faster we go. We work more hours now than we did a generation ago. Tech is supposed to help us free up time for the Things That Really Matter In Life, but we usually just squander our new found free time working more. I think your friend is trying to find balance by swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction for a bit. Good for her.

    I'm inspired to keep trying to find balance in our home, but will do so with my iPhone securely in my back pocket...

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