When everyone else was buying Atari and playing Pong, my brothers and I were playing run-the-bases with a few other neighborhood families still uncorrupted by video games and technology. When everyone else was buying Nintendo, my brothers and I finally succumbed and then managed to convince our mother to buy us Atari. Whenever everyone else was buying Sega Genesis, my brothers and I bought Nintendo. This theme of always being a step behind our peers, technologically at least, continued throughout most of our lives. Cars, cell phones, cable, internet. You name it, we didn’t get it, until everyone else had it. This same Johnny-come-lately attitude that stalled my acceptance into the late 20th and early 21st century world has again kept me behind the technological curve of life-altering innovation, but I am happy to say I’ve arrived in two significant ways. So far in the past three months, my life seems all the better for it.
Since the genesis of this site, my strong opposition to many of the technologies of the past ten years, especially the internet, has been made very clear. And while the irony is not lost on me as I write for an online journal, I still have my reservations about the average citizen's use of technology today. Younger generations, especially, seem bent on nothing other than mindless pursuits and disturbing abuses with their soul-sucking, interpersonal skill destroying, self-absorbed enhancing, critical thought decaying technology…but, I digress. All Bradburian and Orwellian qualms aside, I have recently acquired and been routinely utilizing two relatively recent innovations: Apple’s iPhone 4 and the online, real-time, visual communication Skype.
After losing my cell phone one weekend, a phone that routinely caused snickers from some and flat-out laughter from others, I learned that I was due for an upgrade with my contract. It may have been the extra lighting on the display case or the never endless pursuit of social acceptance, but I was immediately attracted to the iPhone 4. Aside from the standard period of discomfort in holding, carrying, and answering a new cell phone, I otherwise immediately embraced this incredible device, and I haven’t looked back. Amongst all of the hoopla over the apps and games, I have found the phone’s greatest asset, which isn’t necessarily singular to the iPhone, is its internet access.
I like to think I use the internet responsibly. With the iPhone, I have been able to maintain what I feel is a valuable and essential connection to the outside world, via online news, better than ever before. I can now quickly look up local news on Philly.com, check email through my Yahoo account, and read a portion of a chapter on Daily Lit., all while being able to call a friend or family member if the mood strikes me. All these functions have made the iPhone 4 and its connectivity a habitual tool in my life as of late.
Although I continue to consider the detriments to my social interaction with family, friends, and colleagues, I have actually found the phone and its internet as an amazing platform for compelling conversations on everything from world politics to local sports and weather. The smart phone technology seems to create a catalyst to dynamic conversation that eliminates the barriers of ignorance, time, and interest. It has something for everyone and it has it now.
My other major technological advancement of recent months, Skype, has come with the sole purpose of maintaining contact with family that I regretfully don’t see enough. Unfortunately, my brother in the Army who has the three cutest kids on the planet, my nephew, Godson, and two nieces, all live far past driving distance. So for my mother, my other brother, and me, we are unable to enjoy the presence of these beautiful kids, ages 4 going on 5, 3, and 1 going on 2, and watch their growth on a routine basis.
However, the occasional use of Skype, which allows us to video chat in a highly efficient real-time manner, has at least permitted us to watch the kids as they play lovingly with their father and mother, show off paintings, drawings or new clothes, stare in amazement at my dog and say oh-so-adorably, “Big Dog, Big Dog” as they mispronounce his name, and smile joyfully for their grandmother and uncles and say as clearly as possible, “Love you!” All the while living more than a 1000 miles away with a two hour time difference. This incredible enhancement of communication has limited the disappointment in not being able to see the kids grow as other families can, and it has made me appreciate the age we inhabit in a whole new way.
Although I will maintain my apprehensions about where this technology will take us tomorrow, I am confident it can be used to our benefit today. This technology of today can be used for the purposes of education and conversation and connection. This technology of today has value and substance and purpose. This technology of today incites intrigue and amazement and happiness. This is the technology of today, and although I got it a bit late, I’m happy I have it, today.