My father replies to yesterday’s Out of Range post with a question: “Are we Luddites?”
Well, I’ll be honest, I had to Wikipedia that one to discover that, no, I don’t believe I am.
(Link here, but quickly defined: English textile workers in the 19th century that violently protested against the machinery that was replacing them in the mills).
Violent protest, I do not support, but their questioning of the virtues of modern conveniences was wise. For them, it impacted their very livelihood. Machines replacing people.
Are there common threads today?
There was a time in the mid-nineties when I lived on a tiny, secluded island, walked to work at a cottage store where I beaded necklaces, and swore I would never own a computer. Clearly that has changed.
I am quite grateful to use technology as a tool and it has enhanced my life (the Archives, here, as a case in point) in many ways.
So what’s my beef?
Yesterday I complained that with all of this technology, I feel implicitly obligated to answer to it (text messages, email, voicemail). I wonder if I am simply anti-social and today’s tools just won’t let me get away with it. True, I can be a hermit, but I think it’s more than that.
To be clear, I care deeply about the friends and family that take time to call or email me. So, it’s not the communication with people that bothers me.
What I find interesting (and concerning) is how we relate to these communication tools and how these means of communication affect our relationships with each other.
Take texting at the dinner table, for instance. The question has been posed as to whether or not this is impolite.
For me, the answer is obvious, but for many, it’s perfectly fine (in fact, necessary) to be linked in with whoever, wherever, whenever. Dinner table with friends, no matter.
In my view, this is a case where technology not only creates, what I believe, to be a false sense of urgency, it also diminishes our ability to connect with what’s right in front of us: our very friends and family (and food!) we came to share with.
The Luddites might very well be drop-kicking smart phones by the dozen, should they see a table full of friends, eyes locked to screens instead of each other.
Ironic, this device, promising more accessibility to ‘right now’, when it can actually remove us even further from the present.
But I am no fundamentalist. In truth, I have thoroughly enjoyed being at a restaurant with friends, exchanging a few text messages with someone who wasn’t able to join us that night. In this case, the phone brought more connection, especially for the friend that couldn’t make it.
But at some point in the evening, I was done with the small screen and was ready to look into the faces of everyone at the table. Enjoy the restaurant. Though I noticed, that my friend still kept her phone close, ever-ready for the vibration that would alert the next incoming communication.
For me, there have got to be times I cut the cord.
And the time when I plug back in will vary.
I guess I’m hoping that my friends and family will understand this. Know that I love them, even if I didn’t call.
I’m not suggesting a revolution, but perhaps a quiet protest once in a while. Power off our phones at dinner. Look into each other’s eyes, face to face, tech-free.
We can answer emails tomorrow.