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Washington Voices

Real life? There’s no app for that

Thu., Aug. 12, 2010

This is about e-mail and about texting, both of which are still really irritating me. A lot.

True, I irritate more easily than I used to, but c’mon, some of this stuff is just too much.

First, e-mails, a subject I have visited before. You know the ones I mean, the ones forwarded blindly by friends. From my tea party friend, I get the latest anti-administration missive. From a bawdy friend, I get an assortment of jokes. From Republicans, I get tales of how Democrats have done a bad thing. From Democrats, I get something goofy about Sarah Palin. And from everyone, I receive forwarded photos and videos of anonymous puppies, children, whatever, doing adorable, noble, memorable or silly things. Over and over and over again.

Every day in my inbox, there they are, sometimes dozens of them. OK, occasionally some are interesting, but I have to, as they say, kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. And sometimes I just blow them all off without even peeking because it’s way too much.

If a commentary is well thought out and well written, I enjoy reading it, even if I disagree politically with the point of view. And I can always use a laugh, so some of the cartoons and jokes are fun – even if they’re at the expense of a politician I like. Clever humor is clever, no matter the stripe. But why is it that people forward every bit of drivel they receive to everyone else they know without any kind of filter?

Recently I received forwarded e-mails with content so derisive toward a particular politician (whom I admire), which got so virulent that I asked the sender to refrain from passing these things on to me as I found them offensive. I probably hurt his feelings, but my political leanings are not exactly unknown to him, so what was he thinking?

Yes I know it’s easier to forward to a group list than to cherry pick, but please take a minute and be a little selective in who you send things to. Otherwise you’re just being annoying.

On to cell phones. This is an old lady’s lament, but I meet the age requirement, so here I go.

I have a regular flip cell phone on which I make and receive phone calls. It has voicemail and an address book feature (no snappy apps), and I am perfectly happy with it. My son, who looks at my phone with amusement, informs me it can also be used to take pictures and receive and send texts. Not gonna happen.

I continue to be stunned – apparently I stun more easily than I used to – to see so many people walking or dining or driving or with a group of friends or feeding their baby (really, I saw this) while texting. Eyes down, thumbs a-flying, only peripherally aware of what’s going on around them.

With echoes of my grandmother’s dreaded tsk-tsking in my ears, I hereby utter my own disapproving exclamation. I don’t get this texting thing. While I see people of all ages texting, most of them are pretty young. I am quite comfortable not being young or hip or up to speed on trends. I had my fling with all of that and am pretty sure my parents and grandmothers were disapproving of some of it. And now I have become them – at least as far as texting is concerned.

OK, texting isn’t ax murder and probably won’t lead to the downfall of western civilization. What bothers me so much – in addition to the distraction texting causes that can lead to harm, like driving into a tree or walking into me on the sidewalk (apparently I tip over more easily than I used to) – is how incessant texting pulls you away from real time. It takes you out of the moment you’re actually living in — you are out in public after all — and rather than living that moment, you’re there, eyes down and keyboarding and totally missing your environment.

You can make the argument that this is how you share your life with people you care about. How about sharing with the people you’re actually with? Or lifting your eyes to see the wind in the trees? Or the oncoming truck? Or just be technologically unconnected for a little while?

Sorry, this old lady remains a fan of real time, of experiencing the moment, even if the moment is nothing to text home about. Staring at my thumbs just doesn’t sound that fulfilling to me. Even if there’s an app for it.


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