Old Fart

This is another rant about simplification. I can’t help it. I’m overwhelmed. Remember when we used to write to people with a pen and paper? Keep a journal that we always made sure to lock up even though the locks could be picked with little more than a thought? Who else remembers when we used to use telephones to talk to people? Like with our mouths? You know, that hole where the voices come out.

I like many, many things about technology. I love that all my photos are automatically imprinted with the date on their digital file, which in no way impacts the visual image. Remember the super special cameras that had the ability to burn the date right there on the bottom corner of your print? Fun times. Those flaring orange dates almost covered up a few of my more questionable fashion choices. Almost. (Neon spandex bike shorts in place of actual shorts, anyone?)

I like the fact that I don’t always have to get on the phone to make plans with people. I’m a bad phone person. If I couldn’t email people to get together, I might never leave the house. Because I have to psych myself up for every phone call. It can be very stressful if I have to make lots of calls. I don’t know why I’m like that, but email is a godsend for someone like me. So is the Internet. I love having a hundred libraries worth of information at my fingertips in my own home. Some of it is crap. Okay, a majority of what’s on the Internet is crap, but there are more and more credible sources of information coming online all the time. It’s awesome. When it’s not utterly terrifying, that is.

But I’m starting to fall behind.

I know how to use a computer, and with enough information about a program or application, I can usually figure out how to use those, too. But all the new stuff is starting to cause my brain to just sort of throb or ache, or just turn away toward that bright light in the sky. Is it the sun? The moon? I should google that.

I have a confession to make. I don’t understand Twitter. I thought I did. I got an account. I have some followers. I occasionally treated my Twitter as sort of a mini-blog for when I didn’t have enough to fill a few paragraphs in a “real post.” But I’m kind of shocked to find that people actually communicate with each other this way. Or follow and interact with television shows or celebrities. And I’m not sure how it doesn’t suck up the bulk of their day. But I guess even if it does, that’s what those fancy new wireless devices are for.

But it’s not just Twitter. That’s just one of the bug guys. There are thousands of related sites. I just now, this very minute, learned what Delicious was. I have no interest in “digging” or “stumbling” or any of that. And I really don’t want to use applications that disclose my whereabouts to the wide world (or even my Facebook “friends”) at every second of the day.

It’s just getting to be too much. I like Facebook. I’ve found some old friends in that neighborhood, and even as it goes through it’s various upgrades, I’m still relatively comfortable in that social networking space. But even with Facebook, I have a number of “friends” who I wouldn’t ask to drive me to the airport because we’re just not that close. I recently shut down the MySpace page, and I’m considering closing both the Twitter and the Flickr. Because It’s hard enough to upload pictures to one place on the Internet, much less the three I have going with Facebook, Flickr and Shutterfly should I actually want to order prints. I won’t give it all up, but as long as there’s a place where my family can hear from me and see pictures of their grandchild/nephew/cousin/etc. I’m good. I’d rather spend my energy on that crazy two-year-old who lives here, or my marriage, or my face-to-face friendships. I’d rather spend my downtime reading or writing actual English language words than trying to decode all the text-language shorthand all the kids are using these days.

The more websites I join, the more logins and passwords I have to remember. The more profiles I have to maintain. And now, there are ways to connect every social networking site to every other social networking site to your email and every website you visit once or read regularly. That scares me. It’s too much. And who really wants to know all this information? I don’t need to know if you’re “tweeting” from the coffee shop down the street or your bathroom or Greenland. I really don’t care. I’m all for the exchange of thoughts, emotion, the sharing of information. If I’m not interested in the article you linked, I won’t click over, and I expect that no more than a couple of people will click on my shared links in turn. Because it’s not always relevant.

The thing is, I’m getting mixed up. I’m feeling old because I have no desire for a smart phone or a 4G network, whatever that means. All this information flying around makes me think of plastic and landfills. It used to be that if you said or did something stupid or offensive, you could gloss over it, use it as an amusing anecdote for later, or apologize and be done with it. Now, it’s on YouTube or out there among the other gazillions of terabytes of information waiting for the magic combination of search phrases to call it up at the most inopportune times. It’s stuck there in cyberspace for all eternity. And though we old farts may be haunted by our memories of mistakes, safe in our own foggy heads, nowadays, there’s the potential to be haunted by a data record, you know, depending on how many followers or subscribers are still linking it around.

There is so much information out there now, it’s hard to land on what’s right. You have to wade through virtual mountains of trash to find something worthwhile. And it takes time. It takes a certain level of knowledge and common sense. I’d like to think I have a little of both, but one does start to wonder.

It’s late, and I’ve been meaning to spit out these thoughts for awhile. Just trying to find the time. It took me so long to get to it, though, that I forget what first inspired my feelings of technological intimidation. It was probably a commercial for a phone that does all your socializing for you. Or maybe it was a new technology for watching movies or television. Or seeing Inception in IMAX (which didn’t seem all that different from a regular movie except for the CRAZY LOUD VOLUME). I don’t even know.

I’ve just been having this thought that this must be me getting old. Because there’s technology I’m comfortable with, and then there’s the new stuff. The stuff that makes me want to lock up my diary and call my mom on a rotary telephone while listening to a cassette tape of songs from my formative years, which are now, sadly, often played on the “Classic Rock” station.

So there you go.

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