Monday, February 14, 2011

Meet the Electronic Family!

The Electronic Family lives on a diet of Wall-pack transformers and Desiccant Gel Packs!  Yum!

Living in a resort area, you get to see a lot of people and it is interesting how they behave.  Today on the beach, an entire family is walking, each connected to his one piece of electronic gadgetry.  Dad has his camcorder, trying to video the ocean.  Mom has on her iPod and is listening to music as she "power walks" in her $300 walking sneakers.  Little Sister is on her cell phone yakking away about how her parents made her go to "some dumb beach" while little brother is earning bonus points in Grand Theft Auto XXXIV by beating up hookers on his playstation portable.

The funny thing about them, is that none of them are enjoying the beach.  They use electronics to avoid life, not experience it, with each electronic device removing them from the Now - from the experience of the immediate.

In the parking lot, it was not hard to spot their car.  It was the one with the video screens built into the headrests, and the GPS device on the dash.  The center console was a tangle of black spiral cords and various 12 Volt battery chargers.

Why do people do this?  Well, I used to, and looking back, I am not sure why.  I had the video camcorder thing, and chucked it when it broke.  I realized that, like my parent's 8mm Kodak or their 35mm slides, no one wanted to seem home movies or digital pictures.  And experiencing the Grand Canyon through the viewfinder of a camera is not the same as being there.  Instead of living in the Now, I was trying to frame my next shot or record every last little detail for a posterity that just didn't give a damn.

And the old me used to bring along cell phones and laptops and such to "stay in touch" on vacation, and then struggle to get service or find a WiFi.  Since then, I've learned to relax and say to heck with work and being "in touch" all the time.  And yet, we saw people bring laptops on a 3-day cruise.  Why?  I found that I used e-mail once on the ship - to sign up for another cruise - and it took only a minute or two of my time.

Unplugging from the electronic interface of life is a good idea for your mental and physical health, as well as your pocketbook.  Not only do all these toys collectively cost a lot (they are all $99.99 or $199.99 and seem inexpensive, until you add up the total bill) but most of then also have monthly service fees, which stack up until you have subscription fatigue.

To some extent, infatuation with electronic gizmos is inevitable in our country.  And if you are between the ages of 12 and 35, chances are, you are hooked on these things, particularly if you are male.  Hey, we all were at that age.

But sometimes, it is nice to experience life without an earbud, a viewfinder, or an LCD screen in your face.  Sometimes, the really best part of life is just living it, and experiencing it, in real time - real life.

The sad thing about the electronic family is that while all these electronic gizmos are designed to "keep in touch", in reality they act as an insulator between people.

It is like Facebook - you think you are being in touch with people, when in fact you realize that you are creating an artificial construct between you and your "friends".  People may be able to write on your "wall" but there is no door to walk through it.