Thursday, December 15, 2011

Technology VS History: How we continually &%$ up as a species.

In the past (AKA "when I was a kid") it was very rare to have our friends' phone numbers unless those friends had moved away. Why? Quite simply, WE didn't need them. We just strapped on our shoes, jumped on our favored method of conveyance (Bike, Skateboard, Pogo Stick) and went to knock on their front doors.

Sadly, times change. Though for some, not as much as usual!

All through grade school, things remained the same. In first grade, I lived in Dallas, OR. My friend Jeremy lived in the house next door. We'd go off to do whatever random silliness drew our attention until the street lights came on. My former friend Randy lived a few doors further down. I say former, because until I stopped caring (read: got older and moved away) I never really forgave him for knocking out my tooth with a steel pipe while we were playing cops and robbers. He was really good at the cop role.. if he lives in LA, he should apply. (/snicker) Eventually, Jeremy moved far enough away that I HAD to ride my bike there or it took like an hour to get to his place. In all actuality it was only a few blocks, but dude.. I was like 6. I stopped spending so much time with Jeremy because he lived FOREVER away, but hey, Archie moved in next door! FANTASTIC!

Second grade I lived in Keizer, OR. Same situation, only the next door neighbor's name was Adam. Almost exactly the same situation! Adam moved a few blocks down the road, far enough that I had to take my bike to get there. Adam and I remained in contact with very few breaks until about 2000 when we had a falling out over some money. Recently, I came in contact with him again and gave him my number. Not sure if he'll ever use it, but I'm kinda indifferent either way.

From third grade until freshman year, I lived in North Salem, right by Highland School. There were kids EVERYWHERE in this neighborhood! Ryan lived a couple doors down, Derek lived behind me across the alley, Vince lived about a block away, and in fourth grade, I met Robert, Eric, Joe, and Daniel. I got picked on quite a bit because of the physical differences (They were "average" while I was the big kid all through school) but we were basically inseparable. We never called anyone. We all just got together at Robert's house and went across the street to play basketball or football until we could barely walk, then did it again the next day.

Freshman year, it happened. Six weeks deep into the school year, and I moved to South Salem. This is both a blessing and a curse. I managed to escape getting really embroiled in the closest thing Salem had to a gang culture, but instead traded that for a long-running pot habit. Over the years, Derek had moved out south as well, and his brother David had moved up from California. I ended up getting my own phone line, too. Why? My parents couldn't get online with as much time as I was spending on the phone! Between girls and making plans with David, it was pretty much a brick wall. Still, the results were almost invariably me leaving to go meet up with friends. I'd discovered (and subsequently became really good at) video games early, but the basic day to day thing was "let's get baked and play video games" around this time in my life. Plenty of fun, not very productive.

I went through that whole life story mess to illustrate a simple point: Human interaction. We had some back then. We had LOTS back then! Sometimes to the point that we'd get in fights because we were spending so much time with friends that we'd just annoy the crap out of each other for a few days!

Then 1998 came about, and brought with it the mobile phone. Some of you got one sooner, some later, but it was the same general thing. At first, these things didn't even have a screen other than to show you the number you dialed. It basically behaved like a cordless phone, but you could leave your house with it. It was fantastic! I answered many a phone call with "Hey, I'm at Cue Ball. Wanna come shoot?" Also, there was this tremendous feature that forwarded my calls from my house phone to my mobile one if I didn't answer. FANTASTIC! But with all technological triumphs, there's bound to be a down side waiting just around the bend.

As time marched on, mobile phones became more and more advanced. Soon, phones hit the market with screens and GAMES! Cheesy monochromatic games that looked like they belonged on an Atari 2600 but with the same spinach-crap green screen as a Nintendo Gameboy. Also, despite the fact nobody ever used it, these phones had a feature called "Text messaging." You only had one sentence to say, and didn't have time to make a phone call? That's fine! For twenty-five cents, you can send a friend a quick little message, letting them know you're on the way. This is around the time people started spending hours a day on the internet for all sorts of purposes. Research, work, gaming, media, you name it, it's out there. This is also when humanity sort of lost touch with itself. You need to get in touch with a friend? Here's one of a million chat clients to help! They're not online? Better send them an email! They only live two blocks away? Maaan, that's too far. In fact, these days people prefer texting for HOURS to get a point across rather than calling someone and talking for about ten minutes. I'm guilty of it myself, as I'm sure most of us reading this are.

Currently, it seems the purveyors of technology are trying to reverse this issue of human interaction. Skype allows for video chat, which is nothing new since webcams have been around since Al Gore credited himself with hitting the power button on the internet. iPhones and iPads have a feature called FaceTime. Essentially the same thing, and requires a wifi connection. There's also some Android powered phones and tablets with front-mounted cameras to allow whatever the hell Android calls FaceTime. Since people mostly stopped buying books, genuine, paper and ink books, you can download them straight to your phone, computer, or tablet.

The sum of this story is simple: We need to put down the techno-gadgetry and get back to being human as much as possible. Stop and compare the feelings you had when you interacted with people (Even if this included punching them) to the feelings you have now. Comparatively we, as a species, have grown numb to one another with exceedingly rare exception.

Conversely, if this Digital Age is all you have experience with, I challenge you to set that aside. Use your gadgets entirely differently than you currently do. When someone texts you, CALL them back. Read a book, one made of paper and ink. Instead of using Skype or FaceTime, knock on your friend's door! Compare this feeling to what you had while texting all day from as close as a block away and tell me your day doesn't go much more awesome.

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