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.