Once again I might date myself in an editorial. That doesn’t mean this rant is any less pertinent to our lives, however. That’s because, my dear technologically enslaved readers, we need to travel further back in time, back to the beginning, to understand what a dinosaur I am, and how a little Jurassic attitude could benefit us all.
Let’s just say, back in the day in Mistissini, that there was limited contact with the outside world. The two-way radio and snail mail were the only proven communications technologies that would reliably get our messages out to the wider world.
It’s certainly a far cry from today’s reality. This was really brought home to me when I recently asked someone why he hadn’t responded to my repeated attempts to contact him. I was indignantly informed that they had actually responded to my message many times – on Facebook.
Fact is, I use my Facebook page sporadically. I certainly don’t rely on it to keep in touch, especially for professional purposes.
But then I realized it had become another necessary link in my electronic leash. That’s right: almost every one of us (age no longer matters) has an electronic leash. It can be your email, Facebook, cell phone, pager, Twitter, Skype, MSN messenger, chat rooms, texting and the list goes endlessly on it seems. You think you’re up to date? Wait a week, and you’re obsolete. But the ultimate effect of all these new communications miracles is that you’re always on call.
I can be in the washroom, sleeping, standing in line to pay a cashier, in a meeting, or doing any activity, almost anywhere, anytime and my cell phone buzzes or rings. It buzzes for texts, pings for Blackberry – aka Crackberry – has one ring tone for regular calls and personalized ring tones for certain callers. Friends, family and the workplace all want immediate attention. You risk giving offense by not being available 24-7.
These days, the electronic leash is attached to a severely applied choke collar.
Look at texting. It has become such a normal part of life in a very short period. It’s not unusual to see four friends sitting together at dinner and all of them are texting or messaging or Facebooking with other people. But really. What’s the point, I sometimes wonder, of an actual social life when you have social networks?
There are times I have gotten so frustrated I have actually started texting people at the table just to start a conversation even though we were already face to face.
True, the electronic leashes we have willingly donned are not all negative. If your car has broken down you can use OnStar to get emergency assistance. Girls walking alone can immediately contact a friend or family and are usually safer as a result. Creating a phone or text tree to find missing kids is often successful. You can find old friends on Facebook or LinkedIn or various other means. Learning about family emergencies is much faster and dealing with them can be handled much quicker. The indiscretions by police in Toronto at the G-20 Summit were documented and publicized through cell phone-based text trees and social networks at the moment they happened, forcing mainstream media to pay attention to civil rights abuses that they might have otherwise preferred to ignore.
In the end, however, the electronic leash often chafes the necks of old dinosaurs such as myself. In a couple decades, I’ve gone from having not even a phone to a Blackberry and a reality of always being available, like it or not.
Like a dinosaur, I had insisted I would never become addicted to this communications crack, just like I said I would never do Facebook. Of course, like so many of us, I eventually (inevitably?) broke down. I guess even dinosaurs have to evolve in our new communications environment.
But, every now and then I get to exploit the advantage of being Cree: I get to head out to the bush where no one can reach me. I can, sometimes, slip the electronic leash from my neck.