Friday, May 20, 2005

A surprising rant

This morning as I was preparing for my day at work and my trip to the Great Flat Land I had an epiphany.

epiphany: A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization. There you go folks, your word for the day. The word of the day has been brought to you by the letters E and K, and the number 8.

Anyway, back to my sudden realization. There I was, searching for my pager and attaching to myself my security badge and my id tag. My cell phone was on the counter. I unhooked my digital camera from the computer and threw it and it's cable into my suitcase as any pictures of the cutest little guy in the world will have to be downloaded to my brother's computer and my dad's computer.

I don't wear a watch because I'm surrounded by time wherever I go. My cell phone, the phone on my desk, my computer, my car radio... there's a clock tower where my bus stops on the way out of town. If I miss a call, my cell tells me when I missed it AND the number that called. My home phone has call display which I pretty much ignore now anyway. I don't check when I get home to see who called me - well, ok that's more because I know no one has so why be reminded that I have no life?

I have no fewer than...5 email accounts. Yes, 5. I use three different instant messaging tools and for awhile played more cribbage online than I had in real life. With a double click of the mouse, I can be talking to my friend in England, a guy in Wisconsin or the guy in the next cube.

I no longer write my grandmother letters, preferring the instant gratification that comes with an email or an instant message. Unfortunately, Grandma is an 85 year old lady who has no intention of using a computer in this life.

I have a friend who has a blackberry, not to mention the couple dozen users at Corporate that I have to support. Now not only can we be reached anywhere on cell phones, but we can check our email as we drive down the yellowhead at 80km. Need to know the score in the game? Readily available as we surf the web from various hand-held devices.

We can meet people from far and wide without leaving our homes. The finest views are available at the click of a button or a quick google search away. Human interaction is as close as the nearest computer, no shower necessary.

I noticed it last night when my friend came to pick me up for the movie (packed star wars parking lot!). I'd forgotten even the simple social grace of inviting someone into my home as I went to grab my shoes. I came back and was simply surprised he hadn't just opened the screen door and followed me in. We got to the theatre and I turned off my cell phone and chuckled as I watched about half the theatre do the same at various points prior to the movie.

I have three phones (home, cell and work) and three separate voice mail systems to go with my 5 email addresses. And one snail mail address. Which is why I've cancelled the land line at my new place. What's the point? People have enough ways to track me down as it is!

My life has been reduced to a series of numbers and beeps. My goodness, I remember a time when there were party lines. The first computer Dad bought didn't have a hard drive and we had only one phone. If we weren't there to answer it - oh well, they'd call back later. I had keys for the house, keys for the car and keys for my job. Now I have keys for my house, remote keyless entry for my car, and two badges I have to wear to work to identify myself and get access to the building. I do appreciate the wise soul who created remote keyless entry. I haven't locked my keys in my car since that came along.

I don't have to leave my house to buy books, cd's, movies or clothing. Some areas even offer home grocery delivery. Given enough information about a person, and a couple hours of free time I can dig up a lot more information about them. Throw some money at that task and you'd be amazed the information you can dig up. I was talking to a guy online once who claimed to be single. He made the mistake of messaging me with the wrong ID one day. And...well, there are geeks who hack to prove what they can do...I searched to prove what I could do. Hey, I was bored!

Next time we chatted, I gave him his home phone number, home address and wife's name. I alsw listed the last 6 or 8 places he lived. For me at the time it was an exercise in geekiness as well as finding out what is available about people if you take the time to search online. Since then, I've taken a lot more care what information is out there about me. I google my name regularly, and feel relatively confident that my whole life isn't out there for all to see - unless they find this site :) When I worked for AU, my office address, phone number and email was readily available if you just googled my name. I have a friend who googles his name and it comes up with a porn site.

Dropping my home phone will also go a long way to removing myself from the online world. However, you wouldn't find a phone listed in the name on this blog anyway. Not yet. Give me a month or two to get back to being me again.

So, I wonder - is technology too big a part of our lives? Is it more of a distraction and a hinderance to the way we live our lives? Does it foster communication with other human beings? Or simply allow us to hide behind computer screens and wireless technology, pretending to be something or someone we are not. Does easy access to images of the Eiffel tower and Macchu Pichu pique our interest to see far away places? Or just allow us to see the wonders of the world without leaving our safe, quiet homes? Have we sacrificed our privacy in the interest of quick access to information about others?


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