Twitter. Facebook. Cell phones. Tablet PCs. All technology designed to help us connect. All technology that sometimes drives us apart. Remember letters? Conversations? Eye contact?
Don’t get me wrong. I am profoundly grateful for technology and all it’s added to my life. I can still remember (warning: self-aging reference dead ahead!) handling my first fax. On the curly paper. I remember being struck by how miraculous it seemed – almost like a magic trick. Now, of course, faxes are all but obsolete, joining “car phones” (they used to be installed in people’s cars!) and MS-DOS on the junk heap of progress.
I rely on technology for my job. I write copy for websites, emails, banner ads, and online newsletters. I use my laptop to research disease states, and I meet with clients via conference call (using speakerphone and mute, hopefully correctly.) Thanks to GPS, I don’t get lost anymore. This is huge for someone who once got hopelessly disoriented on the way to her cousin’s house which she’d visited dozens of times before. (In my defense, it was dark out.) In fact, I owe my actual life to technology – good thing I wasn’t born two decades earlier. And on a lighter note, when my husband travels on business (his own job is all about technology), we “Skype.” A new verb, apparently.
That brings me to another point, which holds special significance to me as a writer: technology has infiltrated the language! I have conversations daily using words that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Me: “I’m going to share that Grumpy Cat Meme on Facebook, and the talking dog YouTube video too.” Husband: “Sounds good. Let me finish this tweet and I’ll give it a like. Oh, and remind me to text Dan about the new PS4 console.” See what I mean? I may pride myself on the fact that I’ve never used the acronyms “LOL” or “OMG,” and I insist on composing texts with correct grammar and spelling, but I’ll admit it. I speak a little Tech now.
But for all we’ve gained, I think we’ve lost things too. I have – I’m sure lots of us have – boxes full of old letters. Heartfelt correspondence with long-gone grandparents, earnest clichés traded with high school crushes, hilarious missives from my best friend that bridged the hundreds of miles between us during college. Chatty and newsy, poignant and wise, these faded, water-damaged pieces of paper are more precious than hundred-dollar bills. In this age of instant (and easy) communication, letters meant that someone really cared about you. Cared enough to write the letter in the first place, then address it, stamp it, and send it. I keep them, too, because they evoke vivid sense-memories of the girl or woman I was when I first read them. Each letter is its own time capsule.
Do we print out, save, and lovingly reread emails? I don’t think so.
But technology is inescapable, and it achieves nothing to shake your fist and shout “get off my lawn!” A colleague of mine just started having “Tech-Free Tuesdays” with his wife – no cell phones, no TV, no computers, basically nothing that needs to be plugged in or charged up. My own family has begun gathering once a week to play board games. It’s fun, and forces us to interact with each other to boot! (Full disclosure, though: this new board game focus was inspired by a series of YouTube videos my husband started watching.)
As with so many other things, moderation is the key. I may rant about “text language” and roll my eyes at the latest gotta-have-it gadget, but I’m hooked on technology too.
I’m intrigued by the idea of a “Tech-Free Tuesday,” though.
Who knows? If enough other people like it too, maybe “Tech-Free Tuesday” will become a trending topic on Twitter.