Out with friends recently, to listen to music and have some food and beer. Good people, good times. Three couples, and our mutual friends… iPhone and Google. They’re hanger ons. They just show up everywhere lately, and jump into nearly any conversation. They’ve become insidious interlopers, in so many social circles; we are not special, they’ll hang out with anyone. Google’s brilliant, but in social circles he’s lost some of his charm. While he’s one of my Besties (been there for me countless times, and the one I turn to pretty much daily) at home, he’s getting a little old. Showing up wherever I am, whether he’s invited or not.
Here’s my issue. Put your fucking phone down. Really. And sorry for the language. But really, why oh why must Google and his sidekick iPhone (insert whatever smarter friend you have), always be included in every get together? Every conversation? I mean, I’m an inclusive kind of gal. I hate to hurt feelings, (even inanimate feelings) and I don’t want anyone to feel excluded, but seriously. This guy sticks his nose in everywhere. Every. Where. Seems that the idea of delayed gratification has gone the way of the dinosaur. Have a question? Well you’re entitled, as a matter of fact required, to look up the details right away. Forget that we’re talking about important stuff… It’s inconceivable to just wait it out, or Gawd forbid, not know for sure. We need to know now! Need to know if a singer is coming to town in the next year, or what the weather in Peoria is right now, or who is right or wrong about even the minutest detail— pull out your smart phone, call Google over, and show everyone how smart you are.
I get it; in fact I’m guilty sometimes. It’s oh so tempting to know everything at the drop of a hat. To share every experiences. Why wonder, why wait, why have even the tiniest doubt, if you can look it up? I get that. However, I guess I just feel a little sad that our lives are moving so fast and so electronically that we can’t step away from all that info even for a meal. We can’t be unsure about something long enough to hear our friends out and just chance a guess. Our noses start to itch, our eyes twitch, our fingers ache to type it out, and find an answer. Weather in Peoria? Well actually, at the moment of this typing, it’s 63f, there’s a 10% chance of precipitation— but looking at the weather map, you’d swear it was raining there. How many of you will check that detail, before finishing this post? Any information you want, it’s all there, with the click click of a couple fingers.
It’s so compelling that lots of people can’t drive from point A to B without checking something out. What’s the best route? Is there a better one? How many stars does that answer have? Meals can’t be had without the various diners drawing their guns to see who can Google something first. You look around a table and register the furtive glances of those who know it’s not really polite, but have their friend in their lap (run with that)… and the bold gestures of those who just figure all’s fair in the information age. Phone always in view, Google leaning across the table. Arrogant bastard. (Google, that is)
In an age where my kids don’t really know what a “Kodak Moment” is, they can instead snap an image and send it to anyone, anywhere in the world, with the same phone that will tell them what a Kodak Moment is and why their parents get sentimental about it. They do this in seconds. Away with my writing group this past weekend, we were commenting on the fact that we could identify the age of traditional photos by their shape and style: 1940s-50s- black and white photos with shiny finish and scalloped edges; 19060s colored photos with shiny finish and thin white border; 1970s- colored photos with no edge and rounded corners, as well as the miracle of polaroids, wherein one snapped a photo and watched it magically appear on the strange new paper. The 1980s-90s heralded the sharp, rectangular photos that dominated for years. There were panoramic, and regular shots, all with bold colors. Today, most photos are taken digitally and held prisoner on a computer— where we can all gather round, search the screen for memories, and then Google the details.
In my lifetime, I have gone from a phone that was anchored to the wall— preventing me from wandering or seeking privacy. If my Mom was out for the evening, I might talk with my boyfriend for 6 hours (yep, for real), stretching that long chord around the corner… some of that time accounted for in the fact that we often fell asleep together, ’cause we were so in love. No call waiting, so I was grounded when Mom came home and yelled: “I was trying to reach you for 4 hours!!” Caller ID: Damned, no more prank calls. Even at my age, there are times I miss that. Answering machines made us accountable to the people who called while we were out, where previously we had no way of knowing what we’d missed. But today, we take our phones everywhere, and we are never, ever unavailable. Unless we choose to ignore the identified caller. Which brings me back to dinner… and Google.
It’s not enough anymore to just get together and chat— engage in polite discussion about the weather in Peoria, and accept the mystery of it all. No. Not anymore. Inevitably, there is at least one person who just has to check the details on their phone. Often there is more than one person, and then they tend to debate their sources. “But Google says…” “Ok, but Wiki says…” “Neither of those are reliable; you should check…” And if they’re not checking info, they’re texting other people who aren’t there (guilty); talking to other people who aren’t there, who can’t just leave a message anymore; or, checking their phones to see if they missed anything that their 100 “Apps” allows.
Is all of this for the better of humanity? Are we better off having so much technology at our fingertips, and right there beside us 24/7? Or have we lost something in the progress? Do our kids really need to be plugged in all the time, phones in class: to the detriment of cheating standards, disruptions in class, and a sense of constant alertness to every single ping, beep and personal ring tone, while ignoring the teacher’s voice? Is Google really better than holding a weighty Encyclopedia and experiencing the thrill of finding an answer… versus, having it spit at you, in seconds? Is it really acceptable to be out to eat with friends and be on your phone too?
Feh! I am starting to feel like the old people I once saw as dated and out of touch, when my new things ruffled their feathers. Now I’m the peacock, strutting and showing my attitude and disgust. I miss letters in the mail. While I appreciate all of the wonderful Facebook greetings and salutations, there’s nothing quite like a real birthday card, a phone call to say hi, want to have lunch, or congratulations. I’m OK with finding out later, that you called me. Most of the time, it’s something that didn’t need immediate attention. Do we really believe that texting and emailing is as intimate and meaningful as a real conversation? My head spins at the thoughts. And clearly I digress and wander and spew and lose my course… And lest any one of you who knows me personally, think I’m pointing a finger in any particular direction, I’m not. Plain and simple. I’m not. I have done each of these things more times than I’m willing to admit.
Yet, somehow, this week, these topics all came up with a variety of friends and dinner guests, and mounting passion. Each time, we found ourselves questioning the value of the changes that we’ve all accepted (and often welcomed) over time. No doubt, it’s so much easier to get to the store and be able to call home on your cell phone, to ask what you were suppose to buy. Sometimes when dining, there’s a real perk to being able to pull up movie times and see if you could maybe make a show. What a joy when my girl can text me from Israel to share some happy news, knowing we won’t be able to talk for a while. But she knows that it’s her voice I miss most. Or, to see her face or my boy’s, from China, on Skype, rather than waiting months and months to see those faces I love. These are the perks that progress built. I can’t imagine how my own mother felt, waiting for the postcards and limited letters I sent home when I was overseas for three months, in college. How did my family survive my absence and my lack of contact!
But it’s a mind fuck. It is. Silver linings all around, while acid rains falls. So many two sided issues. If you ask me: good begets bad begets good begets bad, infinitum. Forevermore. I can’t help but wonder about, and constantly question, the disconnect in interpersonal interactions, in a time where technological advancement means less and less face to face and more and more access. Less and less undivided attention to the person and task at hand. All the clichés that countless others have pointed out, spin in my head. Progress or decline? Connection or alienation? People, draw your phones and check your Google: status quo or rude?
And here’s an idea to consider:
Share your thoughts. Share your Wiki find and your Google searches. And have a fabulous long weekend… filled with sun (Peoria, AZ, not for Peoria, IL) and good times.