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Electronically Challenged

It seems
the entire world is obsessed with electronics. People barely relate on a
physical level anymore – it’s all through machines.

 My
son has a girlfriend and they are always texting each other.  They
facebook, e-mail, but rarely do they talk on the phone. And when they are
together, it is always a bit awkward and they don’t behave naturally. He can’t
really read her (or so he claims) and sometimes they make-out, but other times
he feels he should keep his distance, because he doesn’t always know if they
are on or off. I think that’s weird. What’s so hard about intimacy when
you’re face to face with someone you’re attracted to? Apparently a lot when
you’re from a generation that’s been trained to relate with this barrier of
electronic space between you and the object of your desire.

     Phone manners is an
ongoing debate around here – my insisting that talking on the phone or texting
others during dinner is rude. I make fun of my kids when we are out together
and I see them holding their phone at their side, texting friends subtly while
also holding a conversation with me. I say, “Hey, when you’re with me, be WITH
me. Live in the present.” And Denver says, “Mom, I’m so in the present
that I can be in two places at once. Really. I’m just saying Hi to Jason, but
I’m listening to you too.”  Drives me crazy. But they can’t stop – they
are communication addicts and so is everyone else it seems.  I’m the odd man out.

Mark is obsessed with his phone. We will go out to lunch and he will spend the
hour talking to someone else. Sometimes he actually gets up from the table to
go outside to give the caller his full attention. I eat alone; maybe have a
conversation with the cute waiter. This is a realtor thing and being available 24/7 is important to his
business, I understand – but still it bothers me. I can’t help but think, “Why
is every single deal, every single call, more important than spending just a
few minutes with someone you supposeably care about? Why can’t you just put the
distractions of life aside for a brief time each day – really, what is it that
can’t be put off just a single half hour?” But I don’t say anything. Nagging
doesn’t get a person anywhere really, it is just an annoyance and a bad way to
communicate. All you can do is voice your feelings, – if the people you’ve
voiced them to don’t react as you hoped they would, that’s just your tough
luck.  Anyway, the family knows my
feelings, so Mark will text throughout the lunch as if that doesn’t count the
same as talking out loud . He will smile sheepishly and mumble, “Sorry,” but he
certainly won’t turn off the phone. And I just sit there wishing I could have
one solid conversation with someone, anyone, that isn’t interrupted. Of course,
I CAN have that – I just have to do it through texting, calling, or e-mailing people
I want to connect to. Face to face, people don’t build relationships anymore,
and no one even tries.    I swear life now a days is like having
great sex and in the moment of extreme passion, having the phone ring and a
partner that chooses to PICK IT UP. You’re like, “You have GOT to be kidding.” Thunk
goes the libido. Personally, I think something special is lost when you live
this way.

I happen to be electronically challenged. It is not that I am helpless, far
from it, and I’m certainly smart enough to figure anything out if I want to.
The problem is, I really don’t want to struggle to learn something that, at
heart, I’m convinced makes the world a generic place. I guess this proves that
I’m getting old – my being crotchety about new fangled systems, but it seems
the moment you get a handle on something, a new invention makes it obsolete
anyway.

My cell-phone talents are minimal. I have never texted in my life. Denver once
took my phone and texted Kent as a joke, and he called me, floored. He was like,
“Mom! You texted me? Have the body snatchers come and possessed your body?”
I said, “It was Denver.”
    “Ah.”

I don’t
even remember to keep my phone with me most of the time. I leave it in the car
and the battery goes dead. The truth is, I don’t want people to be able to
reach me 24/7. I don’t’ think I should have to be assessable and at their
disposal all the time. This drives everybody else crazy, and perhaps it is
irresponsible, because others feel they have a right to know where I am so they
can demand my time and attention at will. But I get so tired of being at
everyone’s disposal. So I keep my phone more or less for emergencies – like if
I get a flat tire.

The other
day, Kent picked up my phone and said, “Hey, you have 9 messages. Don’t you think
you should listen to them?” We listened. They were from September.  He said, “How can anyone not listen to their
messages?”
I pointed out that anyone that really wanted to speak to me would have called
back – the world didn’t come to an end because I ignored some mundane messages.
Everyone important in my world knows I don’t respond to my phone anyway, so they know
better than to leave a message and think it counts for anything.  I do answer my phone when I think a
call might be important, of course, like if I am planning to hook up with Mark
for lunch and expect him to call as to when and where. Or if I’m at a theme
park with family and we’ve been separated. And when it comes to work related
business, I always use the home or business phone number where I always check
messages. I’m not a totally disfunctional, you see. You can bet if an agent
has my book, I’ll leave a number where I KNOW I’ll respond in a timely fashion.

 But good
friends accept this flaw of mine, and find ways to get around my being
“difficult” in regards to communication. People facebook Mark and tell him to
tell me to check my messages.  The
third party system is the best way to reach me, because until a live person
looks me in the eyes to give me a message, I really don’t pay attention.

 I know
that my not embracing communication systems the way the rest of society does is a
real annoyance to those that are close to me – but somehow, I just can’t work
up the interest to turn my time and attention and privacy over to the world at
will. I feel more alive keeping it all real. And anyone reading this must admit,
I am proficient enough at e-mail and blogging to get by, so I’m not a total
wash out in regards to electronic communication.  Though I certainly could be better with a computer and wish
more than anything that I was more talented at handling it.



In must admit, that in some ways, my resistance to electronics is a serious
detriment. For example, Mark put all our business accounting into a computer
system at FLEX, shutting me out just by the nature of my ignorance. I figured how
to view things eventually, but he then changed everything to a new system and
told me that because I didn’t know what I was doing, I kept messing our
accounting up and should stay out of there. Again – this kept me in the dark.
  VERY frustrating when you want to stay engaged in the workings and
decisions of your business. But like I said, I’m not helpless. I recently took
a QuickBooks class so I can set up and retain control of the new FLEX –
partially because he wants no part of this business and is too busy with his
own projects to help me anyway, but also partially because I refuse to let
ignorance challenge my independence. But between you and me, I don’t like
facing this one bit. It’s a huge drag and I suck at it. But I’ll do it, and probably be thrilled
with the convenience and organization I have at my fingertips  in the end. I do get that new inventions
are designed to make life easier. I’m just not convinced they actually do.

After twenty years of working with music in all forms, we have literally thousands
of CDs. Mark put all the music we have into a computer program, but can’t
manage to show me how to make copies of the material I need. Says it’s
complicated even for him. He also claims that if I try to download a song from
I-tunes, the entire library will be de-catalogued and ruined. He freaks if anyone messes with his music computer. Meanwhile he gets
very testy if I dare use the actual CDs we have accumulated because he claims I
will scratch them and so many are no longer in print. Once again, I’m shut out
and can’t function due to electronic ignorance. But I’m running a new school
now so I NEED access to the music. So now, I have to figure out how to copy all
the music we have once again onto a different computer to begin my own separate
library (because he doesn’t want me to mess with his carefully set up system)
and I have to buy an I-pod and figure out how to use it to get a working system
for classes, (actually I’ve had one for a year and just haven’t bothered to
work with it) and I have to figure out the best way to catalogue my music for
work etc… and I have to do this without help because Mark is too busy with the things that are important to his work life to make time for mine. I’m dreading the task
– but it’s something that must be done. So, I’ll do it. Don’t ask me how, but I will.

I guess what I loved most about my barn was that you couldn’t get a signal down
there, so cell phones didn’t work. People couldn’t call me there, and if they
visited, they couldn’t call others so they were just with me. And even when I’m alone, my donkey and peacocks always look into
my eyes when I’m talking to them and wouldn’t dream of looking away to give
their attention elsewhere, just in case something more interesting might be a
send button away. Yes, life felt simple and intimate at the barn, and I experienced moments of being totally connected and grounded and present there with electronics out of reach so nothing could shattering my thought process. It feels good to do one
thing at a time, to give your entire attention to a task or person.  It feels good to listen when someone is
talking to you and to ponder their words, like an echo, even hours later when you are
driving home with a dead phone at the bottom of your purse.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

3 responses »

  1. Great blog, and I agree 99.9% with your thinking….I do; however, recommend learning how to text. Saves a lot of time and know you would enjoy it…

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  2. Well said Ginny. I too agree that all this new techy equiment takes away from people relating and connecting with one anothor authenticaly. Also it is quite rude, which since being with me Rich does understand what I mean…..My husband lives on his blackberry and he loves being able to be reached all the time by people…..Not me. I am someone who has a cell phone but I hate talking on it! Now that both girls are starting the school years I have to be aware of my phone and keep it charged up…..That is a useful purpose and an important one but now my number is out there and it is just one more thing for me to DO…….Also in case of emergencies and for getting me out lost locations….since I am always getting turned around. I am often thought of as being different or kooky which I am quite aware of…but I have found that I often like my animal family members soo much more then some people I know….They connect with you, as you mentionted…and share time and space and a moment with you. Same with children…I adore young people for they are living in the world and movement, for it is in the moment and real for it deals with the body and the connecting of a whole person…the mind, spirit,and physicality of self. Plus when adding music to the mix…often quite divine. These are just a few of my own thoughts which mirror several of yours….Thanks for the article. Heather~

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  3. It’s so funny that you wrote this today! I left my phone at home and got to the studio… OH NO!! (was my first thought) and should I hurry home to get my phone during my 30 minute break (was my second thought)and then I thought about my addiction to the cell phone and decided to just leave it at home. So if you need to get a hold of me, I’m at the studio all day!! Love ya! See you soon!

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