Had I written an anti-tech screed like what Tom McGrath wrote in this month’s issue of Philadelphia Magazine, some would howl that I am a Luddite and a curmudgeon.
Well, they do that anyway.
The name calling rolls off my back, because everything is situational where journalism and culture intersect. My column attracts people throwing roses and also those who throw the stuff that makes roses grow.
Despite his kvetching, McGrath is no more likely to quit social media than I am to throw away my Casio watch just because my iPhone has a clock. (I’ve been using a Casio since my sundial broke.)
McGrath’s story reminded me of a piece I wrote for the Evening Bulletin (R.I.P.) Sunday magazine in the 1960s, long before the internet. The story was headlined “Tyranny of the Watch,” and my premise was that people were slaves to the wristwatch, oppressed by the urgency to be on time.
The fallacy, of course, is that lots of people — you know who they are — feel zero need to be on time. But the editors liked the hook.
For the story, I removed my wristwatch — back then it was a Bulova — for a week to see if I could function and be punctual without it.
Short version: My clock radio got me up in the morning. KYW NewsRadio gave the time every few minutes. I saw clocks in store windows on my walk to work, and some sidewalks still had pole-mounted clocks, usually carrying advertising.
My office had clocks. In a pinch, I could ask a friend, though I habitually glanced at my naked wrist.
I survived without a watch and wrote the article. I declared the experiment a success. I went back to wearing my windup Bulova.
Now, facing the Brave New World of social media, McGrath asked that we “stop stipulating that any time anybody claims to have made an ‘advance,’ we assume it is an improvement.”
Well, welcome to the curmudgeon club, Tom. I always put it this way: Change is not always progress. (This is something I have to explain to progressives.)
Regarding social media, are you not disturbed by reports that the Silicon Valley tech nerd parents who bring it to you keep their own children away from it?
It’s not as if McGrath discovered the Shroud of Turin. The bad effects of social media — psychological and physiological — have been talked about for some time.
What do we do about it?
Before we reach and teach our kids, we have to adjust our own actions.
Let’s start small: Don’t text and drive. Never. Not for a second.
Don’t check your texts or tweets at the movies or at the dinner table.
Don’t let an incoming call interrupt a conversation. Let it go to voicemail.
Don’t talk to anyone on Facebook or Twitter differently than you would in person.
Don’t give out personal or financial information about yourself or loved ones.
Don’t discuss your bodily functions. (Do you even have to be told that?)
Don’t post naked pictures, even of yourself. (Especially of yourself. You are not all that.)
Avoid slurs — racial, sexual, religious, ethnic, species, etc.
Don’t discuss how drunk you got last night.
Don’t tag someone in an unflattering photo.
Don’t lie. (Unless you are the president.)
Don’t Facebook a live birth. Really, don’t.