In case it’s not already clear, this being a blog and all, let me start by saying that I am not a technophobe. I do like technology, and it’s quite exciting to think of how things have changed even within the span of my lifetime. With the iPhone Siri, after all, we aren’t too far off from the computer on board the Starship Enterprise that tells Scotty how fast they can escape from certain disaster. I also understand how our lives are made easier in many ways by the advanced technological devices that have taken on the burden of some of our work.
I am old enough to be vaguely bothered that my students at the community college are younger than the Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but not so old that I’m grumbling about how things were ‘back in the day’ and confuddled by all the dadgone new-fangled whatsahoosits spittin’ out all this digital gobbledy-gook. I’m a Gen-Xer, which means I’m plenty young enough to learn new tricks, but I’ve been around long enough to have performed the old tricks.
Over the years, I’ve found myself resisting technology – or at least certain aspects of it. I wasn’t sure if there was a reason for this, other than my generally stubborn and contrary nature. Then, in June of 2011, I took a cruise. Leaving from Brooklyn, we had to pass under the Verrazano bridge. It was thrilling to be on the top level of a massive ship, about to pass 3 meters under the bridge. We could see the drivers of cars waving to us from the top level of the bridge.
I was using a digital camera to capture the moment on video. I was thinking of how exciting it would be to watch the video in the months to come in order to re-live the exciting moment. As I struggled to get a good angle and keep the bridge within the scope of the display screen, I realized that ‘re-live’ wouldn’t be accurate, because I wasn’t actually living the moment! I was on an incredible ship sailing down the Hudson with amazing views all around me, and I was watching it all on a 3-inch screen!
That’s when it hit me: I resist technology not because I think it’s bad or evil, but because it takes me away from raw, organic, sensual experiences of life. It puts a filter and distance between me and the world, and I don’t like that.
I’m not saying that all people experience technology this way, and if you don’t, then good for you. Truly. But I prefer a more hands-on approach with reality and my surroundings. I don’t object to getting new and better devices and I’m not unwilling to try new things, but I only accept them into my life if they don’t take me away from the more direct interaction with my life, be it working, playing, or just being.
This attitude sometimes puts me at odds with the people around me. They think I’m a dinosaur. They’re close, but not exactly right. I’m a dinosaur, but a modern-day hybrid dinosaur, accepting modernity and technology, but only when it enhances my life, not controls it.