I am not what you might call an early adopter. Despite good ones being on the market for years I only recently acquired an e-reader (Kobo Touch, for those what are curious), I have a laptop that were it a child would be starting pre-school (or just finishing; God I’m a bad parent), and my desktop computer would be in middle school. When cell phones first became popular I used the basic pay-as-you-go model, so basic it wasn’t even a flip. The flip phone is what I upgraded to briefly years after others had moved on to sliding phones, and I only upgraded to a so-called smart phone when I thought my flip phone had *died.
So the fact that I have a brand-new (for me) **smart phone after they’ve become ubiquitous? Pretty much my modus operandi. Look, it’s not that I don’t get drawn in by the shiny allure of new technology just like every other nerd. I do. But while that draw might be a Strong Force for some geeks, mine is more on the order of a Weak Force, possibly even just Gravitational (science, kids, look it up). I’m attracted to tech but I can maintain a stable orbit in relation to it.
And it isn’t that I don’t see how a smart phone will be useful. I’ve had this thing less than a day and already our relationship is symbiotic (though if the phone ever learns to charge itself things may go badly for me). I can already see how it will improve my work and creativity, and even ways I can use it to enhance my table-top gaming. And really there is no real good excuse not to have a personal communicator that fits in your pocket.
But there are certain behaviours I miss and others I’d be happy to see diminish, and their lack/presence are a result of this brave new world of connectivity. For instance, I miss me being the priority when friends come to visit, or when I visit them. In a behaviour so ingrained as to be invisible, the very first things most people do upon entering my home is a) look for connectivity, and b) check to see what has happened in whatever amount of time it has taken them to get here. Only then does the focus swing back to me and why we are getting together…until it’s time to check for the next update, like a gerbil going back to the water bottle.
It’s not exactly news, but our electronic devices give us an unparalleled level of connection to the world around us. But I’ve noticed, as an outside observer without one of those devices, the connection tends to be at a distance; that one can stay right on top of events in another part of the province, country or world, but sometimes at the expense of noticing things and people nearby. I’m not trying to be alarmist. For instance I don’t anticipate a world in which we only communicate through our devices, where the deviceless are functionally deaf and dumb. It’s more that, having been one of the deviceless for so long I can appreciate both the doors and the walls these devices create. And that appreciation is what keeps me reluctant to snatch up every electronic pretty that comes along.
Does this mean I’ll be the paragon that never tweets during a conversation, or takes pictures and shares them on FB or Tumblr while I’m out with friends? No, I’m not that pure-hearted. But I will try to remain aware of and value the proximal, before I expand my focus. Shouldn’t be too hard. The people I keep in proximity are worth the attention.
So, what are your thoughts on the way technology connects or divides us? The comments section is just below…
*Turned out later the phone didn’t die, the wall socket I plugged it in to for recharging wasn’t functional. When I woke up to turn it on it still wasn’t charged, so I assumed it was dead. I learned my mistake later, but by then I had the new phone and had moved on.
**A Samsung Galaxy S II, for those what are wondering. With an Otter Box case, because I am prone to dropping expensive things.