We are giddy with pleasure to present new work from resident Anna-grammer Anna-grams!
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You can fight progress
If you had told the makers of Beyond 2000 that by 2012, we would be carrying large phones around in the pockets of our skinny jeans, they would have laughed in your face.
“By 2012,” they would have replied, “cellphones will be invisible and weightless.”
“And as for skinny jeans, what normal person can look good in those?”
WELL UP YOURS BEYOND 2000, BECAUSE THIS IS OUR REALITY NOW.
In the short(ish) time since I finished high school, cellphones have gone from very large, to very small, and back to quite large again. Meanwhile, trouser legs have tapered away at such an alarming rate that new vocabulary has had to be invented (cue the “jeggings”). It’s a cruel twist of fate that one can barely fit a foot in a pair of jeans these days, let alone a smart phone.
Is this progress? Is this the brave new world that scientists of the 90s promised me? Because when I watched Beyond 2000 as a child, I saw (somewhat pixelated) images of a futuristic utopia, filled with hovercrafts, solar-powered cars, and robots that could cook you breakfast with a single thought. Like Darth Vader – but nice, and helpful around the house.
I did not see images of my future self dangling my (ex-) boyfriend’s cellphone out the window after one too many ‘technological mini-breaks’. I did not see myself shaking my fist at the sky as yet another friend textually cancelled our plans at the last minute (yes, I just used the word “textually.” THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT). I could not have fathomed the technology-induced rage my future self would experience, all in the name of progress.
Now, I don’t consider myself an angry person. But I am not above a good old progress-induced rant. And if I had to order and number my rants of late, they would probably look a little bit like this:
1. Facebook status updates.
I don’t want to know what my more popular, happy and successful acquaintances are having for dinner, or whose perfect boyfriend has cooked them pancakes and found the cure for cancer in the last ten minutes.
GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND GO EAT YOUR FRIGGIN’ PANCAKES.
2. Text language
OMG. WTF is up with TXT language? Trying to read it pains me. Hearing it spoken aloud makes we want to sit in a corner and rock gently.
As I understand it, abbreviations were created to shorten words and make life easier, so saying them aloud is in direct opposition with that intent. For instance, the letter ‘W’ is three syllables when spoken. The word ‘what’ is only one.
WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT HARDER FOR YOURSELVES? And also, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING???
In times BC, (before cellphones), you made plans to do things and then you went and did those things. You simply didn’t have the option of flaking out on someone, because that would make you the arsehole who left your friend waiting in the rain. And nobody wants to be the arsehole who left their friend waiting in the rain…right?
The gift of cellphones has also given us the blessed gift of an escape clause; from any event, for any reason, or hell – for no reason at all! Tired? Got a better offer? Just throw a few words into cyberspace, and you’re off the hook! LOL.
4. Technological slavery
Our forefathers worked damn hard to abolish slavery. We owe it to William Wilberforce and his compatriots, and to the slavesthemselves, to resist the new and oppressive force of technological slavery.
JUST BECAUSE YOUR PHONE BEEPED, DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT IT. Friends must be liberated from the perceived need to interrupt our very WITTY AND FASCINATING conversations, in order to read a message that is probably just their cellphone provider reminding them to top up. It is WRONG and UNJUST, and also, it is ANNOYING ME.
5. Divided attention
Buddha must be rolling in his grave, because never before has there been a society less present to the given moment. Case in point, between starting and finishing that last sentence, I replied to an email, wrote a text message, checked facebook, and asked my flatmate if he wouldn’t mind picking up some milk on the way home.
I’M SORRY BUDDHA. I’M SO SORRY.
6. Conflict resolution
In the past, the art of healthy debate was alive and well. I spent hours, weeks, of my teenage life debating petty and irrelevant details with my friends, without anyone conducting a google search and spoiling the fun. I recall a particularly heated argument over how many times the word “gonna” featured in the N’Sync song “It’s Gonna Be Me”, and then another about whether it was the air or thetension we were proverbially cutting with a knife. That debate ended, not with a conclusive google search, but with a lunchbox hurtling through the air.
And life seemed the richer for it.
I know, I know, it’s not all bad. Technology has given us real gifts too. Like the ability to watch videos of cats from all over the world; to skype friends and family; and to watch little videos of ourselves in the corner of the screen while we are skyping friends and family.
What did they just say? I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I WAS CHECKING MYSELF OUT.
I know we can’t go back. If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t even want that. I came to that sudden and unexpected realisation when, halfway through writing this, my laptop was stolen from my flat. My first reaction was to wonder if the technology gods were smiting me for my ingratitude. I tried to see the funny side for a while, but then I gave up and just cried instead.
It was like Janet Jackson said: I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. I didn’t realise how much I loved my laptop until it had been wrenched out of the wall and carried away out my flatmate’s window.
My laptop wasn’t just a piece of technology that froze at the worst times and crashed without saving. It let me watch Downton Abbey in bed. It let me work from home when it was raining outside. It let me email my insurance company, and order a new laptop.
And when it was suddenly gone, I had to find other things to do, like play the guitar and talk to my flatmates and not get jealous of events I was missing out on.
And to think. I had so much time to think. During that surreal THREE DAY technology hiatus between losing my laptop and acquiring a new one, I came to a decision. I decided to stop ranting about technology so much, and to stop writing my rants down and publishing them in places for other people to read them too. I decided, instead, to be the change I wanted to see in the world.
(SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITHOUT A LAPTOP? GANDHI HAPPENS. GANDHI.)
I would not pike on invitations that I had previously accepted. I would only check my phone during a coffee date if someone’s life depended on it (or perhaps while the other person was in the toilet). I would only start petty arguments about things that could never be proven by a google search. And I would stop inwardly berating people who posted excessively happy status updates on facebook.
God bless you, perfect pancake-eating couples.
Maybe you can’t fight progress. But you can point and laugh at it a little bit.Read More →
I like nostalgia. I really do.
I like it so much I get nostalgic for nostalgia. I long for the good old days in the 90s, that I spent reminiscing about the good old days in the 80s. I spend precious moments imagining my future self, looking fondly back on the moment I’m currently experiencing. Such is my love for dreaming about the past, that I often make important life decisions based not on logic or aspiration, but rather on the opportunity for future nostalgia. I went backpacking for a year in Asia, not simply because I wanted to go backpacking for a year in Asia, but because I wanted to have gone backpacking for a year in Asia. I couldn’t wait to come home and reflect nostalgically on my year abroad.
And then there are the eras I’ve never even lived through! The roaring 20s. The swinging 60s. You name it, I’ve probably highly idealized it.
In a recent fit of 80s nostalgia (a decade that finished when I was merely eight, but no matter, I remember it like it was yesterday), I watched The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Within five minutes I was longing to live in the 80s again, but this time as a teenager, and ideally, as Molly Ringwald herself. Then I did what anyone in my present day position would have done: I googled her to see where she had ended up.
What did I really expect? That she would still be driving around in a pink car, sewing her own prom dresses, and applying lipstick from her cleavage?
(Yes, I did).
To my profound disappointment, I found that she was now…in 2012. Or rather, she was no longer living in the 80s. We were living in the same time, at the same time. She looked normal. She seemed to have thoroughly adapted to the new millennium. There was not a visible trace of 80s nostalgia in her.
It made me stop and wonder: where was all my nostalgia really coming from, and why? Was it a problem I needed to fix, or just a natural and healthy way of cherishing the past?
When I looked a little deeper, I found that up until a few centuries ago, nostalgia – that warm, bittersweet feeling we all know so well – was actually considered a form of melancholy. It was considered a precursor to suicide, and a diagnosis for soldiers that deserted their posts.
The word “nostalgia,” based on the greek words nóstos (“homecoming”) and álgos (“ache”), was originally coined in 1688, by Johannes Hofer, a Swiss doctor working with mercenaries longing for their homeland. At that time nostalgia was a medical condition, linked to illness, and even death.
But (thankfully) more recent studies have found nostalgia to actually have psychological benefits. Nostalgia expert Dr Krystine Bacho says that nostalgia can improve mood, increase self-esteem, and infuse our lives with a sense of meaning.
“Nostalgic reminiscence helps a person maintain a sense of continuity despite the constant flow of change over time,” she says. It can also help us cope with loneliness, and strengthen our sense of social connectedness.
So, perhaps my highly idealized view of the past is not such a concern after all. Perhaps it actually displays how sickeningly well adjusted I am. But can that explain my intense nostalgia for eras I’ve never even experienced?
Dr Batcho distinguishes this as a different form of nostalgia; what she calls “historical or social nostalgia.” She says that “individuals who feel nostalgia for a past era are more likely to feel dissatisfied with the present and/or perceive a past time period as better than the present.” (Which, I would infer, is bad.)
Bugger. It is true that I spent the days following my 80s movie marathon strangely longing for shoulder pads, and resenting the presence of smart phones and non- synthesised music in my life.
If I had lived back in the days when nostalgia was a medical condition, doctors might have prescribed me a variety of remedies, including purging (no thanks), leeches (no thanks) or opium (hmm..). In 1733, a nostalgic Russian soldier was allegedly buried alive by his army officer  (I think I’ll stick with the nostalgia, if you don’t mind).
These days it’s a little trickier. How do you cure something that’s no longer considered a medical ailment? Svetlana Boym, author of The Future of Nostalgia, calls modern day nostalgia “the incurable modern condition.”
“The twentieth century began with a futuristic utopia,” Boym writes, “and ended with nostalgia.” She hypothesizes that globalization and the accelerated pace of modern life have deepened nostalgic longings.
“Nostalgia tries to slow down time,” she says. 
Hmm. Could my nostalgia be in some way connected to the recurrent impulses I feel to hurl cellphones, computers, photocopiers, and other technological paraphernalia off of tall buildings? Could my longing for the 80s be not simply due to the outrageously fabulous fashion, music, and dance montage scenes; but also due to the fact they were so gloriously free of technology?
Pac Man was the pinnacle of computerised fun. Cellphones were so outlandishly huge nobody could fit them in their handbags. Life was simpler.
But hey, you can’t fight progress. So I guess I’ll just cash in my nostalgic psychological benefits and console myself with the fact that in twenty years, I’ll look back on this decade as the prime of my life. These will be the good old days.
Ahh, future nostalgia. There’s so much to look forward to.
 ‘Tis the Season for Nostalgia: Holiday Reminiscing Can Have Psychological Benefits (2011). Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/12/nostalgia.aspx
 Nostalgia (2012). Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalgia
 The Future of Nostalgia (2002, Basic Books), as cited by Lambert, Craig; Hypochondria of the Heart (2001). Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://harvardmagazine.com/2001/09/hypochondria-of-the-hear.html
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