Saturday, April 16, 2011

21st century (digital boy)

[today's soundtrack - one of my all-time favorite songs.]

i can't really describe my reaction when i read this article. i started off chuckling, built up to laughter, and by the end of the article i was rolling around on the bed in hysterics. not because it's all that funny, really; it was the laughter of oh, my god, you just wrote my entire life in the space of a two-page online article. to say that i identify with the writer is to say that the grass is a little green or that donald trump's hair is a trifle artificial-looking.

see, here's a typical meal with the man and our friends. we go to the restaurant and order. we sit down. one of the boys pulls out his phone. within SECONDS, all the others follow suit. silence descends over the table, occasionally punctuated with a snicker, or maybe some comment (inevitably tech-related) spawned by something someone read that triggers a snarky conversation filled with acronyms. sometimes, i say, well, i'm gonna pull out my phone, too, just so i don't feel left out. that kind of subtlety, however, rarely gets the point across. there have been at least three meals in the last two weeks during which i haven't uttered a single word, because the conversation is so densely, impenetrably tech-related that i can't understand it, much less contribute (when there's talking at all, that is). i live my own personal south by southwest (and i love the phrase the annual campfire of the digitally interested more than words can express) every single day, except that i didn't choose it.

i take the man to functions with my law-school friends on a fairly regular basis. inevitably, we talk shop when we're together. we can't help it. law school is immersive, and now that we're all lawyers (some practicing, some still studying like me), it's only gonna get worse from here. but i am always cognizant of his inability to participate in these talks, and i do everything i can to steer the conversation back to something he can share with us. plus, let's be honest; law is more accessible to an intelligent person than tech is. it would be nice to get the same consideration from the tech boys every once in awhile.

but no, there's a defiance at work in their circle that's at equal turns shocking and disappointing. the counterpoint to the new york times piece, cited in the article, is a strident fuck off to those who go out with our friends to be with our friends. to the other tech kids, that whole the times they are a-changing trope sounds edgy and daring, i'm sure. it's another instance of that obnoxious thread that runs through tech culture: we are the only ones who control the paradigm of the new culture, and because of that, we will say what the new world will be. the rest of you? your ways are quaint, and we will crush you. this isn't progress; it's outright hostility to the rest of us. and i, for one, won't stand for it.

this is nothing more than, as the new york times article concluded, mutually assured distraction. and it's not being a luddite to expect your friends to be present with you when you go out with them. technology is righteously amazing. but as i mentioned a few weeks ago, without people, there is no technology. when you use this stuff to both assert your superiority and affect a form of digital isolation, you subvert the original purpose of all of this: to bring people together. it ends up creating a race of twenty-first century digital boys, who don't know how to live, but they've got a lot of toys. see how far that gets you in the flesh-and-blood world. you might be surprised.

hey. did you hear me? oh, guess not. you were playing angry birds again.


  1. I heard you! Every word!

    On a more serious note, I tolerate a certain amount of phone use. Texting is fine with me. It's just that when I'm with someone and they're actually hanging out on the internet that I feel ignored. But texting...well, I'm addicted to that and I can't exactly ask other people not to if I get twenty texts during dinner.

  2. I'm with you on everything, except for this line "law is more accessible to an intelligent person than tech is." Ten or twenty years ago, I would have given you that, but I don't think it's true any more.

    The reason "law is more accessible to an intelligent person than tech is," used to be true was that the law is so pervasive in our day to day lives. It saturates almost every aspect of our lives in one way or another from birth (birth certificates, custody, etc) to death (wills, inheritance, etc) to every major milestone in between (adulthood, drinking age, jobs and other legal contracts).

    Sometime in the last decade or two, technology has reached a similar saturation point in our day to day lives. From sonogram pictures posted to facebook, to faxes being kosher in terms HIPPA but regular email not being allowed... and so many other things big and small. It's pervasiveness forces us to get used to it and in doing so makes it more and more accessible.

    Two hundred years ago you weren't considered educated unless you had a passing knowledge of Latin and Greek... more and more, today's intelligent person has to have a passing knowledge of both the law, and technology.


your turn.