Monday, October 12, 2009

The Anti-Technologist...

Recently, I had occasion to have to explain myself to some complete strangers who thought I was some sort of three-headed monster. They appeared to regard me as some prehistoric beast, a creature from another time, as out of place in today's world as a brontosaurus would be.

Why? Because I refuse to carry a cell phone.

In fact, I refuse to carry any electronic gadgets at all. No phones, no pagers, no PDA's. You'll never see me Twitter a damned thing (and from what I've seen, the name is apropos: people who 'tweet' are often twits, unable and unwilling to stop living in the immediate. They'll send "I've just stepped in dogshit!" to their friends and then spend hours waiting for responses). You will find no 'productivity tools' or 'mobile communications' devices of much utility around my house, beyond a PC and a cordless phone.

Some think this is strange, but I have a set of specific reasons for living this way. For a start, it's liberating. I used to have a job that required that I never be more than a phone call or page away from someone who may have needed help in correcting a problem. The ability to be contacted at all hours of the day and night came with the job; along with the idea that holidays and weekends didn't exist, and that if you got one off, you were exceedingly fortunate. I carried my cell, my pager and a Blackberry on my belt, and the damned things never stopped ringing, buzzing, hooting, vibrating or otherwise depriving me of sleep and sanity. Sometimes it was a necessary call, but more often than not, it was someone who just wanted to see "what was up" or "what are you doing this weekend", etc, etc, and the idea of an impersonal e-mail or text message was somehow a more productive use of time than a phone call.

Quite frankly, these devices didn't make me "more productive", they simply handcuffed me to my desk, electronically, 24/7.

And that's another thing: these aren't productivity tools. They represent the ability of your employer and co-workers to reach into your private life, your down time, and cajole you to work from home, or worse, to come back to the office at the most inconvenient times. I hate these things mostly because of the sense of intrusion they represent. If I wanted to work at home, I would. If I wanted to commute to work at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight, I'd have taken the night shift.

The second problem with these things is the ability of anyone, for any (usually stupid) reason to be able to contact you whether you wish to talk to them or not. I would rather avoid most people, until I'm ready to speak to them. Possession of the cell, the 'berry, however, only serves notice to people who will contact you for frivolous reasons to feel perfectly comfortable doing so.
Naturally, you can always turn these things off, and after a while, I did. But, when someone who is determined to annoy you with a blow-by-blow account of how they did nothing worthy of retelling all day is determined to assault your ears, they can be relentless. No answer on the cell? Send a mail. No response to multiple mails? Page him. No response to a page? Call him on the landline.

I can't tell you how many times I have been hailed in multiple formats, multiple times, by someone determined to talk my ear off. I can hear the progression now: ringtone, loud clang of arriving e-mail, Star Trek transporter sound effect for the text message, and finally, the sterile electronic warble of the landline. One after another, literally seconds apart. If you strung the sounds together, you might be able to use them to write some sort of symphony of aggravation.

And now, these phones and gadgets apparently come with a GPS locator in them? Yeah, if people being able to annoy me at whim wasn't bad enough, now I have to worry about people tracking my movements? Get real!

I'm quite happy being incommunicado, you know. I like the idea that I'm not a slave to my electronic accoutrements, and I don't care how strange an unusual you may find this, nor do I care about how this 'isolates' me from the greater society, and even if it means 'The Office' can't contact me to get status reports; it's how I have chosen to live. I rather like it.

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