One of the largely unacknowledged aspects of the incredible speed at which personal and professional communications technology change is the fact that such changes not only often waste more time than they save, but that they pander to and foster self-centeredness.
I’ve mentioned the time-wasting before, but I continue to be reminded of it again and again. Almost every month, my editor’s publishing firm changes some aspect of their software, which means that when I ask my editor for certain information, it always takes longer because it seems that just as he’s learned all the bells and whistles from the last upgrade, the company changes something else. The same thing occurs at my wife’s university, and even with all those upgrades her computer got ransom-virused – and she’s never used it for anything but business [her IPad is much more convenient for the personal stuff, and I have to admit it doesn’t seem half so prone to viruses, even if it does have other glitches]. Because I have to keep current for a number of reasons, I’m now wrestling with some annoying features of Windows 8.1, and I’m still angry about the fact that the latest version of Word occasionally effectively deletes what I’m working on – without activating the automatic back-up/save if I type too fast and accidentally hit a three key combination that has an H in it. I don’t mind too much activating spell check or creating a new document, but deleting what I’ve just written has me wanting to assassinate the system designer or marketing manager who decided such add-ons were good. All of these rapid and continuing “improvements” waste most people’s time, but because just enough people upgrade, if you don’t, before long you’re getting documents you can’t open. So what’s convenient for a comparative handful of IT techies and tech geeks becomes anything but convenient for the rest of us, especially for those of us who use technology as a tool to accomplish something else, rather than to create “new” features just in order to make that claim.
The other aspect of our modern communications revolution is that it both isolates individuals and encourages a self-centered attitude. Take cellphones. We now have acquaintances, and even some friends, who switched from landlines to cellphones. Most of them don’t even tell anyone, as if everyone should know. Then, maybe they posted it on Facebook, as if it happens to be everyone else’s duty to find out. And when you can’t reach them, they’re the ones who are upset, but it’s rather difficult to reach people without their phone number, either for texting or talking, especially now that more and more of them are abandoning email, except for business.
And social media. What if I don’t want to be on Facebook or LinkedIn or… whatever? Or tweet on Twitter? That’s my choice; it’s anyone’s choice, but now, the attitude of all those on Facebook is that they no longer have to make an effort to actually reach out to others; they just have to post on Facebook, and others have to reach out to them to find out how things are going. It’s not that people are more selective. They can’t be, not if they’re posting on social media sites.
But then, maybe that’s not because they’re self-centered. Maybe it’s because they’ve spent so much time wrestling with technology that’s supposed to be easy, and isn’t, that they only have enough time to post on social media and send 128 character tweets.