This droll account by my friend Tom Ewell of his love-hate relationship with computers and social media sounds so, so familiar. Read this is only if you know who Adlai Stevenson was, if you Tweet less than twice a week and if Medicare is your current or soon-to-be best friend:
(from Tom Ewell) Friends,
Although I had written a post for last Saturday evening my computer refused to send it out - just refused; like the proverbial mule, it just sat there. I assumed, of course, it was my bad, some key I had hit wrong, or I had offended my computer's personal sense of political or moral correctness. I had to go to bed defeated thinking all would be well in the morning, being the optimist I am.
Well, Sunday morning the computer was still on strike and my defeat turned to surrender. Finally by the afternoon, however, my sense of determination had returned, and I decided this injustice could not go unchallenged. I diagnosed my plight as a mental health crisis, and on an emergency basis I called in my trusty computer mentor/counsellor to offer some counseling for my computer and, by that time, for myself as well. After my mentor was also temporarily flummoxed by the situation we discovered that the problem wasn't with my computer - or me! - at all. My server had mysteriously just shut down. And by Monday morning my computer was again on line, and I had apologized for all the bad things I had said to it and we had made up. But by Monday my ego and self confidence had had enough computer analysis for the week, and I bagged last week's posting.
So I thought...there must be a sermon or a lesson in here somewhere, maybe one that might even be helpful to someone else. But I can't really find one. What I did learn is that I live in a world of personal, professional and psychological dependency on communication systems that I don't understand nor certainly control. But I also can be ever so grateful for what I DO know and how incredibly - for me, magically, actually - this whole system of digitalized communication works. Most of the time at least I can write something on my little home computer, decide I want to send it out to people across the globe, type in a short address for them, hit a (right!) button, and almost instantaneously they get my message. How cool is that! And should I ever complain that it all gets problematic once in while?
The answer is obviously, yes, we DO need to complain about the dependency computers have on our lives unless we want to become total, passive subjects to this technology. We probably also need to complain even more loudly and often about how the whole internet and social media phenomenom has taken over so much of our time, creativity, and live, warm interpersonal connections. But, again, we can also say it is a small price for the convenience and ease by which we conduct most of our communications and business in this digitalized age. And so goes the back-and-forth lover's quarrel most of us (older ones at least) have with our computers.
My new strategy is to go on the offensive. Not having an in-house consultant, I have hired a professional computer tamer to help me domesticate my to-date wild and unpredictable social media skills. I am establishing a website that will archive my Saturday Evening Posts, and if all goes well my use of Facebook, Twitter and the media fad of the day may well follow. Grandkids, here I come!
Some of you readers may pity my naiveté that i will ever assert command of social media skills. Others will admire my courage for even trying. And all of us (including the "computer natives" out there who have grown up with computers) are faced with weighing the extent of time and commitment we choose to give to what can be a potentially harming, dominating part of our lives. How much of our lives, really, can be sanely committed to social media even as we value the freedom this spectacular technology offers us. Like the impact of most all cultural "advances" that have impacted our lives historically, I suppose, we are forced to choose whether or not to adapt - ready, willing and able or not - to the changing world around us, and in our case, it's the computers and their impact on our lives.