The blinding allure of technology

This past weekend my wife and I got new smart phones. It’s a ritual we are accustomed to doing every two years, and it was hastened by our one-year-old daughter putting my wife’s phone in a cup of coffee.

We took our brood on a shopping adventure to our local wireless store and purchased the latest Android phone. We picked out our phones and accessories and I remained at the store while my wife took our three daughters to visit stores with less expensive breakables.

By the time the store closed an hour and a half later, my phone was not done transferring so I had to keep my old phone close to it as I searched for the rest of my family. We hadn’t arranged to meet at any specific location but I’d simply start walking around the Bay Terrace Shopping Center and hope to see them. I couldn’t text my wife to find out where they were, I had her phone stuffed in a shopping bag along with extra charging cables and other accessories.

While I may have once taken pride in being somewhat of a Luddite, there is no stopping the increasing use of technology. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I was the last person among my circles of friends to get a cell phone and one of the last to get a smart phone. I’m not as technologically connected as my younger peers at work. I have come to embrace technology even if I use it more sparingly than others. It’s a matter not only of etiquette (sending a text message if you are going to be late) but increasingly of safety (knowing who can see our children’s photos on social media).

I refuse to be one of the zombies I see slowing down foot traffic in the city, and those slothful grown children are not the product of technology but rather bad character and upbringing. If mobile phone technology had never been invented, no doubt these self-centered techno rubes would be finding other ways to make our lives more difficult.

The people who are abusing smart phones and gaming technology are inheritors of the slack-jawed mindlessness of those who abused television and less advanced video games years ago.

Technology does not cause any moral rot any more than it creates virtue. Throughout the centuries there have been two schools of thought that have reacted to technology that have been totally wrong: those who think that it will bring about the downfall of mankind and those that thought that it would bring a new era of virtue and help create a more equitable society.

As I searched for my family, I came across a man who was standing idle on the sidewalk. He looked at me as I looked across the parking lot and struck up a conversation, asking me if I was bored and commenting that this part of Queens is boring and Manhattan is where it’s at. I made polite conversation, but noted we were not far from interesting nightlife closer to Northern Boulevard and that the shopping center had a movie theater.

The man was odd and too eager to speak with strangers. He was not threatening at all, just awkward and sad. I did not ask him if he had a smart phone with him but if he did I did not see it. Such a device would have helped him find something to do. Queens does not have the same social scene as Manhattan, but that’s no matter. No one in the five boroughs has any reason to be bored.

And someone by themselves at a shopping center on a Saturday night striking up a conversation with me has social issues holding them back more than geographical challenges.

But no matter, a few minutes later I found my family at a frozen yogurt shop, and we enjoyed some brain-freezing treats before heading back home. My wife and I had to feed our kids and get them to bed before spending time with our phones getting them set up properly. We’re almost done.

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One response to “The blinding allure of technology”

  1. Brooke D Stevens says :

    Moot, Are you a Neil Gaiman fan? He’s one of my favorites. Recently I attended a reading he did and this is the poem he ended the night with:
    “The Day The Saucers Came” by Neil Gaiman

    That Day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
    Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
    And the people of Earth stood and
    stared as they descended,
    Waiting, dry-mouthed, to find out what waited inside for us
    And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
    But you didn’t notice because

    That day, the day the saucers came, by some some coincidence,
    Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
    And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
    or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
    Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
    But you did not notice this because

    On the saucer day, which was zombie day, it was
    Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
    A ship built of dead-men’s nails, a serpent, a wolf,
    All bigger than the mind could hold,
    and the cameraman could
    Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
    But you did not see them coming because

    On the saucer-zombie-battling-gods
    day the floodgates broke
    And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
    Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
    And charm and cleverness and true
    brave hearts and pots of gold
    While giants feefofummed across
    the land and killer bees,
    But you had no idea of any of this because

    That day, the saucer day, the zombie day
    The Ragnarok and fairies day,
    the day the great winds came
    And snows and the cities turned to crystal, the day
    All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
    Computers turned, the screens telling
    us we would obey, the day
    Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
    And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
    Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
    The fluttering capes and arrival of
    the Time Machine day,
    You didn’t notice any of this because
    you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
    not even reading, not really, just
    looking at your telephone,
    wondering if I was going to call.


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