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Sounding Grumpy …?

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What better time to do so, since our second volume examining the life and art of famed artist/contrarian Alex Toth just went on sale as of Wednesday, 02/13/13?

I’m sure to either raise hackles or generate defensiveness from iPad/iPod/smartphone-ers, Facebookers, YouTubers, and their brethern, because I’m going to publicly vent my spleen over how technology seems to have consumed us and created what I call The Culture of The Rude.

Now, I’m not a total Luddite — I’ve been using computers since the 1980s (remember DOS, WordPerfect, and Lotus1123? I used ’em all), my writing is composed in M-S Word, I research and share files using the internet, and of course I’m posting this entry using technology undreamed-of when I was growing up in the 1970s. But — and here’s the crucial “but,” I believe — I use the tech that suits me, and I don’t jump on every bandwagon that comes along. I don’t own any sort of cel-phone; I don’t have an iPad or tablet. I don’t have accounts with Facebook or Twitter. And I don’t see a need for any of them.

Whenever someone jumps on the Facebook bandwagon and asks other Facebookites to “friend” them — Facebook’s devaluation of the word “friend” is, in itself, odious — I reply that I’m not on Facebook, and what’s the advantage of Facebook over e-mail, anyway? I never get a substantive reply to that question — instead I get a lot of toe-scuffing-in-the-dirt and fum-fuhing and maybe a, “Well, you can post poctures on your Facebook wall …” response. To which I reply, “I can attach pictures to e-mail.” After which the respondent goes silent.

Facebook, it seems to me, is about self-aggrandizement. E-mails are about the author reaching out to an audience he selects; Facebook is about putting something up for public view and trying to attract some slice of the public to come to you to view it. I’m not going to tell you I can’t see validity to that — and I’d be blind not to notice that Facebook has become an effective marketing tool for many businesses/entities — but I’m telling you [A] I had any self-aggrandizement beaten out of me years ago and [B] I don’t need yet another website to visit multiple times over to check the doings of Friend A, Friend B, Friend C, and so on. If those Friends want me to know what’s up with them, they know how to get in touch with me, and vice versa.

I shake my head in dismay whenever I see or hear someone fiddling with their smartphone or iPad in order to get it to perform some esoteric function, or babbling about how long it takes to sync the frammistatz to the whoosiwhatzit … I can’t help thinking, “Man, no wonder no one reads a book anymore! They’re all too busy tinkering with their gizmos.” I want my technology to serve me and display about the order of complexity demonstrated by my toaster — I want to take the thing out of the box, plug it in, fire it up, and have it work. My “free time” is much too much of a precious commodity to be wasting it trying to make Device X work with Equipment Y and share Application Z. I would turn away weeping if I had to waste a lot of my time in such a manner.

And while I recognize the potential benefits for some in owning a cel-phone, I have landlines in every major space I occupy except my car — isn’t that enough contact ability? If not, how did we survive all those years before phones became portable? More than any other piece of equipment, the cel-phone has generated The Culture of The Rude, a Culture that has become so inculcated within society that most of its practitioners no longer have the slightest clue they are, indeed, being rude.

I noticed it in the mid-’90s, when a trip to the supermarket began to become synonymous with listening to one side of someone else’s conversation: “What should I get? Butter Brickle or Rocky Road?” was the sort of inanity that would assault me as someone blasted away at the top of his lungs while we were both making a trip down the freezer aisle. By the 21st Century, aided by Bluetooth technology, things degenerated to the point where standing in line at the cash register now often means waiting behind someone who is jabbering away to some unseen party throughout the checkout process, too rude to even acknowledge the cashier on the other end of the transaction. When my turn at the head of the line comes, I make a point of speaking with the cashier and telling him how thoughtless I find the cel-phone-a-holic — and I’ve yet to have a cashier respond to me in other than a grateful manner, simply for acknowledging them and telling them I know someone else has treated them like dirt, and I don’t like it anymore than they do.

Nowadays I can be walking down a corridor and someone coming in the opposite direction — head bowed, shoudlers hunched, paced slowed in what I think of as “the smartphone shuffle” — is so intent on the screen in front of him and the controls he’s fiddling that he starts drifting over into my “lane,” oblivious of the impending collisiobn he’s about to cause. My annoyance running high, I snap my fingers like a hypnotist awakening someone from a trance — and like one entranced the person visibly starts, head and eyes darting about as he takes in the situation, and makes a sheepish course correction.

Final example: September 2006, Fenway Park in Boston, Red Sox vs. Twins on the night David Ortiz was likely to set the team single-season home run record, eclipsing the great Double-X, Jimmy Foxx. A friend and I had excellent Pavilion seats almost directly above home plate. On Ortiz’s first at-bat, Santana, the then-Minnesota pitcher, wound up and delivered his pitch, with Ortiz poised and ready at the plate. My friend whipped out his cel-phone and took a picture (a very nice picture; an 8″x10″ of it still hangs on my wall). *Cuh-RAKK!* Ortiz went yard, the Park went crazy … and my friend, in his excitement, e-mailed that photo to some number of friends and business associates … who spent the next four or five innings relentlessly calling him on his cel-phone, so he could repeatedly say, “Yes, I’m at the game — yes, that was the pitch — yeah, it was nuts!” And so on and on and on … While I might as well have been sitting by myself while my friend engaged with the outside world and essentially ignored me. And guess what? I don’t begrudge my friend his actions — technology and what have become its accepted uses never made him think twice about what he was doing. That sort of behavior has become as routine as making right turns on red … whether that behavior should have been allowed to become routine is another question. I bet you can tell how I would have voted in that matter, and the fact that society has moved in the opposite direction is a great failing on society’s part, in my mind. These incidents and many, many more make me adamant about not having a cel-phone in my possession, about not wanting to voluntarily sign up to join The Culture of The Rude.

This post may make you want to spring to extoll all the wonderful facets and benefits of everything technological. It may make your defenses go up and try to convince me that I’m wrong-wrong-wrong, or that you’ve seen folks rudely using tech, but you would never do such a thing. It may even make a few stray souls say, “I agree with you 100%!” I accept all those reactions as being valid; I fully believe in the premise of, “You rmileage may vary.” But getting this off my chest has made me feel better — and if it spurs thought and contributes to even a handful of persons using their technology with more consideration for those around them, it will have served a useful purpose.

Thanks for reading; have a fine day —



Written by cnwl1

February 16, 2013 at 1:22 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

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