A few years ago, one of my nieces asked me why I still had a land line when I also have a cell phone.
Why didn’t I use the cell phone for everything? And I didn’t have an answer other than I was used to a land line. To my way of thinking, a cell phone is only for when I’m driving or on a trip and want to contact someone. Hell, I only started to text with my cell phone comfortably in the last year. And it’s still not my go-to way of communicating with people.
I do not enjoy wandering through voice mail menu items when I phone any company that I have to deal with. Inevitably, the menu does not cover the issue I need to address. And then there’s no way to get to a real person unless I dial ‘0’ and hope that that will lead me to a live voice on the other end of the line.
I send emails and I get them. I reply to some of them as needed. I also send letters and cards via snail mail. When one of my sisters was at school away from home, I used to send her funny cards and letters. I figured that, since I enjoy getting cards and letters which I can hold and keep and re-read, she would enjoy that, too. I have a cache of cards which I send to people I know sometimes for birthdays or holidays and sometimes just because.
I used a computer at work. I set up class assignments, entered marks onto a spread sheet which I learned how to create, generated slide shows. As Head of Special Education, I used computers to update student Individual Education Plans and to enter testing results when I administered standardised tests. And I remember my frustration when the program which I had to use to enter these results crashed three times in one year. I’ve entered report card marks and comments and then, all too often, had to re-enter these a few times as the program which my board used had the unfortunate habit of frequently crashing. It was then that I longed for the days when marks as well as comments were entered manually. When I was in school, my teachers did not have to rely on the vagaries of technology to record course grades. When I was teaching, I often longed for those days before computers.
I’ve ordered things online. I do many things online mainly because it’s more convenient for me to do that from my home. I’ve used computers when I’ve written major papers. I’ve written a book which I’ve saved and revised on my computer. I learned a long time ago to make back up copies of everything I write so that it wouldn’t be lost should my computer go on the fritz.
I do have some form of social media presence. I use Facebook. I’ve used Zoom and FaceTime and Skype. I do have a blog and a website.
I play computer games.
I have a CD player and a DVD player even though I don’t use them a great deal. I’d much rather use my stereo system or go to the movies.
So it’s not as if I’ve shunned technology in all its forms. However, I miss getting letters and cards. I miss talking to a real person when I call any company with a question.
I have a sort of love-hate relationship with technology. I still take notes and use a paper calendar. I still make lists and write down summaries of conversations when I need to. I still send letters and cards. I have a stand alone computer, and a lap top, and a MacAir and an iPad. I have a cell phone. I have portable telephones. I have a digital camera. I have a disc man. I have a DVD player. I have a disc player. I have a great car which has, I was told, more computers in it than were in the first space shuttle. And I don’t mind using all that until something goes wrong with it. Then I just get frustrated and long for the ‘good old days’ before all that technology became part of my world.
When I was growing up the internet didn’t exist.
No one had a personal computer or a calculator. Cell phones didn’t exist. I produced papers for my school subjects on a manual typewriter. I learned to use a slide rule. And while I didn’t really master the slide rule, I was a wiz at typing things and taking notes with my own personal short hand. When I was teaching, my students were shocked when I told them this if we discussed he advantages and disadvantages of technology.
Even as I know that it’s impossible to go backward in this day and age, even as I know that technology can be a great help in making things faster and easier, I’m left wondering what would happen to the generations younger than me if, à la The Chrysalids, all the technology stopped working.
If there was a cataclysm which rendered all our technology totally useless, what would people do?
How would they cope? We’d have to learn how to write in long hand again and check our own spelling and grammar. We’d have to learn math skills at all levels without relying on a calculator to complete everything. We’d have to learn social skills so that we could interact with people face to face. We’d have to come out of our technologically generated bunkers and deal with the world in our present. We’d have to learn how to slow down our lives. And we’d have to get comfortable with it all.
I used to tell people that I was a Luddite – a person who is opposed to new technology or ways of working. And I know that that’s not true. I appreciate the ease all this technology gives me in conducting my day to day life. And yet I also know that it can be a trap. Relying on all this technology separates us from each other and can lull us into believing that we’ve been somewhere and lived our lives actively interacting with others. And yet, that’s not what happens.
When I began to think about all this now – it was in response to my major frustration when trying to navigate the voice menu when I contacted my cable provider, I looked at how much I’ve become tied to all this technology. And I decided to make a different choice. I’ve started to wean myself from some of this technology. I don’t spend so much time on my computer. I don’t religiously check my emails several times a day. I’ve chosen to declare that one day a week will be pretty much technology free – checking my emails only once, not accessing the internet, not using my iPad, not turning on cell phone.
At first, that felt difficult to accomplish and, with each week, it’s been getting easier.
So, I guess that I’m creating a new version of doing things ‘old school.’ My version. I’m doing things my way.