April 10, 2009
Technology, community, and genuine experience
A friend of mine recently wrote something that I just had to respond to, so this is another of those started-out-as-a-comment-but-got-too-long posts. His post may well have been a sort of rhetorical exercise, and I know I probably took it too personally and made it All About Me, but this is an argument that crops up fairly often in various places, from folks as disparate as conservative Christians and back-to-the-Earth liberal hippy-types, and while I appreciate some of the argument, for the most part it rubs me the wrong way. (In this case, of course, it’s “I disagree and would like to debate this point with you,” rather than “ZOMG I’m so offended!” Just so Luaphacim knows. 🙂 ) Anyway, here goes:
While I suspect that final question (and indeed, perhaps much of this post) is meant to be rhetorical, I can’t help but feel like you’re creating a false dilemma here. In what way does my appreciation of my refrigerator and my climate-controlled house prevent me from appreciating the sound of the wind in the trees, birds chirping, and porch swings? Is not suffering from food poisoning due to a lack of refrigeration truly “missing out on the ‘genuine’”?
Furthermore, in re technologies like cell phones and the internet, one encounters arguments against such things (…often on the internet…) fairly frequently, from people who fall all over the political and social spectra. They destroy community. They distract us from the real world. And indeed, I get frustrated with them myself on a regular basis: kids these days, texting in class, at work, during band rehearsal. However, I maintain that one can be frustrated with a basic lack of etiquette when it comes to the use of technology without wishing such technology gone, or fearing an apocalyptic outcome because of it.
Last night I watched my alma mater’s men’s ice hockey team win an important game via satellite television. I glimpsed one of my closest friends in the arena during the broadcast. Via Facebook, I chatted with that friend’s brother in Australia, and kept him up on the game. I also celebrated the victory with my friends back in New England through status updates and notes on one another’s virtual walls. Maybe it wasn’t community in the traditional sense, but it felt like community all the same.
Given my nomadic tendencies (I’ve had driver’s licenses in five different states!), it would be significantly more difficult to keep in touch with my loved ones without the internet and my cell phone. Of course, I appreciate that were it not for modern technology (not to mention feminism, I’d say), I wouldn’t have the problem of wanting to be able to keep in touch with people in such a wide variety of locations in the first place. Nevertheless, I bristle at the implication that my experiences are less genuine for being technologically rich.