Technology in Aspen — I’m not buyin’ it
by Lorenzo Semple
, Aspen Daily News Columnist
Saturday, June 29, 2013
The new age of information is being heralded as a major technological breakthrough, but it seems more like a shopping scheme to me. The fact that I don’t own an iPhone, or a tablet, or a Blackberry, or any of that jive oddly defines me.
The more connected we supposedly get as a result of social media and the Internet only leaves me with a feeling of further isolation, and I’m OK with that. I can honestly say that I had more close friendships and meaningful relationships before the invention of the cell phone, Internet, email and the mobile device.
I don’t do Facebook. I was explicitly warned by a wise British roadie that it’s Pandora’s Box and should be avoided like the Bubonic Plague. I actually feel like I’ve lost friends and family to technology. When I look around in public these days, everyone’s using a mobile device that’s more than just a cell phone. If you observe it objectively, it looks kind of ridiculous. I feel particularly sorry for all of the little kids hooked on the “screen.”
Choosing not to use a mobile device is a simple but difficult choice — much like making a choice not to eat junk food, or overindulge, or fall victim to any one of our addictions. Not having a mobile device is in a way liberating. Somewhere down the line we were sold the idea that being able to receive emails on your phone was a good thing. I’m not so sure. I’m actually relieved I can’t get emails on my phone.
First of all, I must admit that I’m addicted to my email. I’m under the impression that those messages are more important than they actually are. Email is actually a cop out. Ninety-nine percent of it is junk anyway. The phrase “urgent email” really is an oxymoron of sorts. If something’s important, you’ll get a phone call. If it’s serious, you’ll get a certified letter or notice in the mail, and if it’s actually urgent, the police will show up at your door. I would fully support legislation that made the “reply all” email feature illegal in the state of Colorado. It would compliment the medical marijuana and gay marriage laws well.
Thanks to technology, the sacred line between play and work has been tragically blurred beyond repair into “plurk.” We now have people like me skiing with cell phones so that we can conduct business; taking cell phones on bike rides, to work, to dinner, and everywhere else. It really has become a luxury to leave your phone behind, like on vacation. I know, it’s unthinkable but try it sometime, it’s empowering. Our society is addicted to technology and we are all willing participants. I have seen the future — mobile device rehab centers, complete with “Clockwork Orange” style reconditioning techniques. Aspen would be a good place for the first one.
Apps for phones are something I have no interest in. I prefer to engage in things that keep me in the moment, like getting dirty outside, breaking a sweat in the fragrant wilderness and face-to-face conversations with live women. Is there an app that helps you get up Highlands Bowl? Yes there is — they call it the Bowl Cat.
I will admit that I have an iPod and it has truly changed the way I listen to music, but the thought of having a song interrupted with an incoming phone call or text message would drive me crazy. People are so addicted to texting these days, it’s a little embarrassing. An iPod is good, a cell phone is too, but one that does both is not for me. I think of it as the separation of church and state.
One of my pet peeves is people bringing their iPhones to concerts. I have a very low threshold for that. The human mind is an amazing thing in the sense that if it experiences something interesting, something actually worth remembering, it will create a memory — a lasting impression. I can still remember defining concert experiences without having to look at videos from those shows. People who bring phones into concerts and watch through the screen takes away from the crucial symbiotic connection between the crowd and the band. You are not Martin Scorsese. This isn’t “The Last Waltz.” In public, I find people glued to their mobile devices to be a major turn-off.
One of the things that people always comment about Aspen is that people say “hello” to each other while walking down the street. Mobile devices and phones are eliminating that on some level. People walking down the street using mobile devices can’t see the forest or the trees, or oncoming cars in intersections for that matter.
I long for the days when you called someone and made a time to meet, and went from there. If they showed up it was important, if they didn’t you just rolled with it. It’s hard to imagine that when I was a kid there weren’t even answering machines. You let the phone ring five times, then hung up and tried again later. Maybe if it was urgent you actually went over to their house. Meetings that happen organically, in the true sense of the word, are often times more rewarding.
I’m not sure what the cost of technology will be to our society, but I’m not convinced that the demigods being worshipped and responsible for the great disconnect will be treated kindly by history. I’ll just have to keep stubbornly turning my back on technology even if it amounts to spitting into a fan. If anyone ever sees me with a mobile device, be afraid. It’s a sign of the apocalypse.
To reach Lorenzo, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.