Terrified of tech

Technology! (Image via ComputerCloset.org)

Technology! (Image via ComputerCloset.org)

I don’t know why, but I frequently watch Morning Joe. On the positive side, the show is often a group of smart people, close to my age or older, talking about interesting subjects. It isn’t the same old soul-dead gaze of the infotainment abyss staring back at middle America–you know, like the Today Show.

The MSNBC show is ridiculous and embarrassing, though, whenever the conversation touches on technology use and the Internet. Smart phone use. Twitter. Facebook. These things come up and Morning Joe goes to hell (the political discussions are for a totally different blog post, okay? And I probably won’t write that one), and I sprain my eyeballs from all the rolling. I could pick on all cable news for this kind of discussion. I simply watch Morning Joe so it’s my most familiar example of people in my age group talking about tech in the spirit  of those ape men in 2001: A Space Odyssey fearfully hooting and slapping at the Monolith at the beginning of the film.

Look, I thought I was late to tech things. I did.

In 1986 one of my best friends, John, was trolling dial-up bulletin boards and downloading scans of of naked women and I thought it was ridiculous.

“Okay, let’s go.”

“Dude, your computer is still on.”

“Yeah, I’m downloading a centerfold.”

“For real? Boobs? How long does that take?”

“Wow, it’s fast now–about 6 hours.”  

In the 90s an ex-girlfriend’s use of AOL chat utterly confounded me. She spoke of meeting interesting people and also weirdos and it was terrifying. Another friend’s computer graphic art seemed like magic, the way he could twist and contort a photograph into a cartoon.

Around late 1998 I began to catch up. By 2001 or so I was off and running with tech use, for better or worse, and happily hooting and slapping the heck out of all sorts of Monoliths.

I don’t learn new tech stuff as easily as my wife (it’s become a large and crucial part of her career as an educator), but I’m more likely than she is to want new gadgets and once I have them, use the hell out of them. My point is, I’m not afraid of any of it. While I admit that I have tough learning curve with certain elements of tech use (I mean things like light coding–HTML, CSS), I ascribe that to having ADD, not fear or even age.

After all, it’s the future. There are plenty of things about the future worth fearing–and many of those things are certainly tech related (hi, NSA, how you doing?)–but it’s always been that way and let’s deal with it. Suck it up and handle the future, it’s here.

I’m sick as I can be of most debates over technology use. Hand-wringing and pearl-clutching like “We’re a depersonalized society!” or “E-readers are evil, book and literature killing machines!” or “The devil will come and take your child to hell via Tumblr !” (I don’t know, this last I might buy). I’m tired of all that and intensely tired of other, related discussions, like ostentatious bullshit about “unplugging” or going on “digital diets.”

No, really, shut the fuck up about this stuff. Or, to be polite, please shut the fuck up.

Use your phone or don’t. Have only one app on it, whatever. Buy a damned flip phone, they still work fine. And are tougher than most smart phones. Reject it all and be a fully analog human if you want–much as I love tech I confess I sometimes like that idea, as well. I’m not evangelizing for the use of any tablet, computer, phone, smart watch, etc. I am evangelizing for the power of rejecting bullshit debates over settled questions, and rejecting them wholesale. The exact sort of debate I see every time a technology-related issue comes up on Morning Joe.

This stuff is here and you can use it or not. I’m going to, and I expect to still be using it when I’m 70, should I be lucky enough to live that long.

Humanity’s adaptability is one of our greatest super powers. Shut the fuck up and click or tap away, it’s more natural to do so than you may want to admit. Either way, let’s talk about something else, or something new.

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