Thursday, April 2, 2009

Textual Analysis (or, We can make him Better, Stronger, Faster...)

Posted in response to a New York Times blog, that you can check out here --- it really hit a nerve -- some 430+ posts in three days...

Technology and entitlement….

I’ll be 40 in July. As a kid, my parents smartly required me to buy all my own video games. I got the Radio Shack knock-off of Pong and then the Sears knock-off of the Atari 2600, the first console with interchangable game cartridges. When Atari trotted out the 5200, and many of my friends’ parents marched out and bought the latest, greatest, I understood fundamentally, even at a young age, that this crap–and demand for my hard-earned money–would never end! It’s one of the primary reasons why Bill Gates is a bazillionaire.

I started rudimentary e-mailing in 1987. I spent too much time doing it, and my education suffered.

When cellphones hit the market, I found their intrusiveness nauseating, and I’m an extrovert, I can tell you. I watched my friends curse their loss of freedom–always on the leash with the job. I held out against them until 2002, when I was working freelance and started losing jobs because voicemail response time became slow enough to affect my income. That’s a good reason to upgrade, in my book. Not simply because one can.

My third grader has yet to give the full-court press on cellphones, but I know the debate is coming. So far, his mother and I have refused, also, to get him a Wii because it is up to us to decide what’s appropriate in a world in which it sometimes feels as though reason is indirectly proportional to technology. Witness the A-Bomb, the mother of all goings-too-far…

I’m not a Luddite, really. I appreciate my extended life-expectancy–know where it comes from–and I make my living operating a computer, but I have fiercely maintained that we have long since surpassed the line in this culture of so-called time efficiency and balance.

It's as if Reason has been largely kicked to the curb in American Life, by SUV-driving reality-television watching, “diet” soda-addicted, Travel-team parenting Narcissists who rationalize their own “peace of mind” by handing cellphones of mass cultural destruction to Grammar Schoolers.

Ms. Parker-Pope—I don’t know if you stopped your counter-posts, but as I was reading them, it was as if you were texting along in a “conversation” obsessively following the debate, even commenting on how bad it was for you to comment…..I submit to you that your rationalization of “balance” during the school walk-a-thon could also be seen as having one’s IT cake and eating it, too. I don’t know what the snarky commenter said, but I bet there was a grain of truth there. Your use of the thing was no doubt equally annoying, and the breakdown of boundary invites criticism.

To all the folks who wrote TPP, most of you skipped the pure pleasure of writing out Parker-Pope, which is a fabulous name, really, and I wouldn’t have known that had I not TAKEN THE TIME to scroll to the top and discovered for myself–it would have been too easy to simply parrot everyone else who used TPP.

It’s all connected. In a certain way, it’s all about low self-worth clouding decent judgment. I love being an American, and I love modernity, but I see a huge chasm in our national critical thought, and we ought to be shouting across that canyon to the people on the other side. If they’d just take those earbuds out, they could have an actual conversation about it.

Thank you for posting Ms. Geiger’s thoughts. It obviously hit a big nerve. Yes, people can be harsh–many here thought she was cluelessly unreasonable by texting her kid during school time. I’d agree. Thanks for anyone who made it the end of my long rant!


  1. I disagree entirely!! Rational thought and critical discussion remain a vital and undisturbed...

    Woops! That's my blackberry. Talk 2 U L8R!

  2. I'm with you. I enjoy technology and work with it for a living, too. To me, though, technology is great only when it does something that improves your life. When the Palm Pilot came out, a friend gave me his old one when he upgraded, and it made my life a lot easier. My calendar and phone book were suddenly with me everywhere, and that was a game changer. I could say the same about recording music on my computer - game changer. Big improvement in the things that are important in my life.

    I also enjoy things like HD TV and Facebook, but I try to make sure I use them in small doses. It's too easy to get sucked in then the day goes by and you really haven't DONE anything. Moderation is key. By the way (and I purposefully didn't use BTW - DOH!), we do not own a Wii, Nintendo DS, gameboy, or whatever else is cool these days. I enjoy a good game now and then, but I see too many people get sucked in for hours and hours and get nothing DONE. I'd rather take the kids outside and throw a ball or frisbee around.

    On things like the blackberry and texting, it's useful when it makes communicating the things you need to communicate easier to do. However, in my opinion, just accessing your email or sending quick messages all day long isn't so great, because that type of communication could be done more effectively in small doses.

    These new things are fun, but it's important to recognize why you use it and if it truly improves the quality of your life. Also, moderation with anything is important. Maybe Parker-Pope could let her daughter text, but if she texts more than a certain reasonable amount, she loses it. That would teach her to use it more effectively rather than just texting all day long.