Jan 12, 2011

The collapse of society will not be written in ones and zeros.

Dear AAP-
I use a computer, obviously since I'm writing to you here. I'm no the web every day like everyone else - for news, email, work, research, killing time whatever. I'm saying I get it , but I'm still concerned when I see my kids and their dependence on all things online/digital and really not just my kids but also my co-workers and some peers too. They get lost in it and I'm thinking this is going to have some serious negative consequences down the road, for our society I mean. I know that sounds dumb as I type it, but I'm asking seriously, what can a person do to go against this tide? - Not Anti-Technology. Just concerned.

Dear NA-T.JC
If you really want to go against this tide, just do it. Unplug, then tell your friends they'll need to buy stamps if they want to send you messages because you don't have email any more and then dig out your phone book so that you can look up phone numbers again... and with the cash you save not having to pay for internet or a text/data plan on a cellphone, you can buy a bicycle, get outside and spread the word of your new, happier lifestyle.

...but ok, you said you're not a Luddite. You know the utility and usefulness of all this technology... but YOU can handle it... you're concerned with how other people can/can't handle it, how "Society" is going to crumble because other people aren't as savvy as you are about these things? Is that it? I've got some news for you: Worrying about 'the other people' in this case is just code for some kind of elitism, and besides that I should tell you this: Unless you own ComCast, your actions aren't going ot have much of an impact on our society one way or the other.

We are a digital society, and growing more digital by the day. Get used to it and accept it. Bad weather here in Southern California knocked out my internet connection for eight days and I thought I was going to lose my mind... Not because I didn't know what to do with myself but because I couldn't DO any of the things I have to do in the course of a typical week. Granted I'm not addicted to an MMO game or some such thing, but still, it felt like a kind of withdrawal. Am I proud of that? No. Am I aware of it? Sure... but that has more to do with my own weaknesses and habits than it has to do with the technology itself... I recently watched a documentary about people who have developed addictions to online gaming etc, and for my money, it always seems to come down to this: addictive types are going to find SOMEthing to be addicted to... whether it is heroin, ham or digital heroics... and it seems that for every addict who destroys their lives with a videogaming addiction, you'll find a story about some wheelchair bound recluse who found friendship and real connection through an 'online community' of some kind.

The real point that I'm slowing coming around to is this: Society has problems and most of them are NOT caused by WoW or FaceBook or anything else flowing into your house through the DSL line. From where I'm sitting "kids today" are not more isolated by all of this technology - In fact they're waaaaay more connected. Think about it. My nephew is a high school freshman. He sends/receives 1000s of texts/messages each month, to/from everyone: friends, cousins and of course his parents. When I was a freshman in HS, I had just a small group of maybe 4 friends who I pretty much only saw or talked to while AT school, maybe got 2 or 3 phone calls a month and basically spent all of my time sitting in my room alone (ie: "isolated") and listened to records... and when I graduated from high school I immediately lost track of most of those friends. Then it was off to college where the whole thing started all over again: figuring out who your friends might be etc etc... but now, kids are always connected to 100s of people and they STAY connected, not based (as we did) on who is or remains most geographically convenient, but by who best enriches their lives with communication... and when/if they do go off to college, they still have all their old contacts just as close by as ever (in their 'contacts' list) and have also probably already found (through online means) like-minded people & groups at what will be their new school.

Seriously - our society isn't "changing" it has already changed in more ways that you or I can truly comprehend... and those changes aren't going to stop any time soon. We're humans, changing our society and our living conditions based on improvisation and innovation is what we DO as a species... Get on board with that and stop with the self-righteous concern about "society" ..."society" will be fine and continue on its current trajectory whether you're sitting in front of your flatscreen or on your high horse.