So I was doing laundry last Sunday and watching football, right? And this commercial came on, okay? So it was a Verizon commercial or maybe it was a Sprint commercial or maybe both, but anyway it was advertising the “4g” network, which is supposed to be faster than ever and frankly the whole thing is already terrifying from the outset, but the commercial got me to thinking about technology.
There now exist these devices that deliver, as the ad said, “content” faster than ever. All kinds of “content,” from movies to music to books to games. It’s a veritable cultural cavalcade of Stuff, powered by tiny handheld hunks of metal and minerals. I live in a city with fucked up sidewalks and an apparent lack of viable public transit. Half the neighborhoods here are totally collapsed/ing because no one particularly cares enough to fix them. They’re busy getting paid, getting laid, and living their own small lives. No one gives a shit. Or worse, they do give a shit as long as it’s environmentally friendly and green and safe and sanitary and nutritious and genetically pure. Functional comes last on that list.
Reality is crumbling here but still the latest gadget running the flashiest manufactured reality gleams ever-brighter on into the future. I went home last night and read about a video game that is the latest of the latest undergoing a beta where all of the users (testers) complained about lack of map choice and worried that the existing map doesn’t properly convey the aim of the series the game is an iteration of. On Saturday I sold a Magic card to some guy for $15 so he could later resell it for more. I ate in a Taco Bell with a TV (two, actually) that ran advertisements, music videos, a news ticker that was decidedly right-wing (entire ticker was nothing but terrorism updates and how “despite counter-terrorism success, Obama will have trouble being re-elected in 2012”) and weather news, which is why I decided to do laundry in the first place (gotta wash that snuggie).
Escapism is a part of human nature, of course. In a very real sense, it’s the path of least resistance when confronted by a difficult situation. It’s easier to retreat into a book or a game or a forum than face the real sources of misery in one’s life. It’s choosing to leave the band-aid on and pretend that it doesn’t exist rather than pulling it off at all, fast or slow. It’s not immoral to be an escapist (unless your moral system says so) nor is it really the worst thing to be (you could be a hard working and realistic cheat) but it does foment a sort of stagnation that is and will be ultimately damaging to the self and to society as a whole in the long term. Ignoring problems only makes some of them go away.
It’s tough, though. Especially in this day and age. Last Friday night, I was on my computer until I realized that I really had no reason to be. So I turned it off and realized further that I had nothing better to do, so I decided to go to sleep. As it turned out, I found something to do and I went out instead, but I decided to put my computer away for a while. It only lasted until Sunday night, when I had to complete a short “entrance loan counseling exam” to ensure that I get money in the future. Also needed to check for announcements and readings posted on the internet for my classes. And to look up where to find an army-navy surplus store in the area so I can pick up a duffle bag and so on.
Information technology has become a necessity in today’s modern, western, developed society. It’s become how we communicate with each other more often than not. We’ve reached a point where people who insist on meeting in person, people who write letters, people who do not utilize infotech like everyone else are thought of as strange or eccentric or outdated and fuddy-duddy. Even the act of reading books, that old stronghold, is becoming quickly outmoded with the third generation of e-readers on their way this year. We take this stuff for granted now, and we do so so thoroughly that even suggesting “tech-free vacations” is a big deal.
I’m behind the curve. I still have a phone that was made back in (gasp) 2009, and was basically outdated even then. My phone has actual number buttons and slides up for a keypad (which is why I bought it) with four rows of solid, clicky letter buttons. It was a contemporary of the iPhone 3GS, which I understand is about when the iPhone and “smart phones” in general really took off. I essentially own a relic that’s only two years old. Mind boggling. I bought a ps2 in 2008 because I wanted to play stuff I had missed in the last generation. My music device is a Sony Walkman nwz-s545 that also came out in 2009 (hey, guess when I bought them). Nothing I own is really modern per se, but only by virtue of the fact that technology has such a short half-life. I like it better this way, sometimes. I know the feeling of authenticity associated with using retro devices is some crazy marketing hipster bullshit, but man ya gotta get that sincerity hit somewhere. I think I’m gonna start writing letters again. You should too! Mail me a letter! I live at 1463 N. Johnson, New Orleans, LA, 70116. I don’t care what you put in the letter, say whatever you want. I promise I’ll mail you back, too.
Author's note: I wrote this like a month ago and forgot about it. Irony abounds, I bought a new smartphone because my old phone started shutting off when I sent texts. So it's not entirely true anymore.