Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Times Like These

I feel like a newborn. 31 year old newborn.

At Starbucks this morning I rested my bones on a new leather chair meant to look old. To my right was a man nearly half my age. Across from me a woman twice as old. One sat plucking emails from their Gmail account on a laptop, the other on their smart phone played a game intensely. Who was doing what no longer means anything, no matter of age, we all utilize technology feverishly. We are as techie in public, as we are in private. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook are those aged 50 and older according to a recent Pew Study. Safe to say, regardless of age, we are all hooked in some sense of the word.

Imagine going an entire day without your cell phone. Now imagine going an entire year. How different would your life be? Would it be better or worse? Surely you’d be less informed, but maybe more relaxed, and at ease with who you are as a person. Does technology inform us to a point where we become manifestations of the informers, or are we able to keep our individuality throughout the barrage of daily emails, texts, Facebook updates, and yes, blog posts like this one?

Before coffee, before a shower, before doing anything besides letting my dogs out in the backyard, I check my email every morning. By check I mean sort, and by sort I mean go to war. I forward, delete, reply, reiterate, and compose on a pace meant for those with serious volumes of email arriving daily. Without this routine, I’d probably read the three newspapers sitting in my driveway each morning, which doesn’t get done till the evening, or spend some time gazing at the trees in my backyard, which currently only happens on the rare occasion I slip outside for a minute between emails. Simpler times intrigue me.

Design wise my favorite period of which to draw inspiration from are the 1920’s. The roaring twenties, I picture my grandmother in a silk pattern dress with short curly hair, fur coat resting on her shoulders standing in central park as she mingled with sophisticated New Yorkers on a brisk fall day. I picture my grandfather, hunched over enjoying oyster stew from the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar, talking civil war history with academic heavyweights of the time. I think of old varsity sweaters, and badges that used to adorn them at my alma mater. I see the paperboy in a wool cap, the radio sitting in the center of the home, and books about railroads on the coffee tables of those that existed at such a time. I see the lines, the curves, the faces, and the places with unbridled optimism, because I was not yet born into whatever painful reality existed at the time.

Romanticizing a time, or place for that matter is alight, as long as the realization is there that you’re doing it. Truth be told, people had to go out and do something, there was no version of the iPhone in the 1920’s for them to keep busy with at home.

Robert Putnam pointed out over a decade ago, that we are spending more time alone thanks largely to technological advances. Maybe if Putnam had written his book today, he’d have romanticized the time more, being that now, even in a coffee shop where discourse once ruled, we all are slaves to our gadgets.


Microsoft launched an ad campaign pushing for more time in the moment, and less on the gadget, little surprise, it wasn’t much of a success. Apple launched its iPad 2 not long ago, and rumor has it they sold over a half million units in the first three days.

A small contingent of people are logging off, I found this article about a man living off the grid interesting, he has no electricity, but of course, his solar powered laptop is never far from reach.

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