The Fascination with the "New"

I’m convinced that, with regard to innovation, most human beings tend to fall into three groups — those who are fascinated and intrigued with the newest gadget or technology, those who want nothing to do with it, and those who will employ it if it’s not too much bother to learn to use. All too often, though, especially in the United States, each new tool, gadget, or methodology is over-hyped by its proponents to the point that, initially, it tends to get either adopted willy-nilly or rejected out of hand.

As for my own personal preferences, I admit I’m a tool-user. If the new gadget doesn’t take too long to learn and will accomplish something I need done better and faster, I’ll consider it. If it takes a lot of learning for marginal improvement, chances are I won’t adopt it until there’s something better around… or until I’m forced to do so. One reason for my attitude is simply that almost all new technology doesn’t just do the “old stuff” better and faster [and sometimes it doesn’t even do that], it also incorporates all sorts of other capabilities, and those, in effect, require the individual to do more and more, often faster and faster, and usually for less compensation.

Take the internet and high-speed connections. These days, it’s expected that an author will have a website and a blog and answer at least some email [if only from editors and agents]. By its nature, email almost demands a quick response, and if you don’t respond quickly, you get more email. Having email access, even with the best spam filters, means spending some time deleting spam, if only to allow you to continue receiving the emails you need to receive.

Once an author commits to a website and presence, he or she commits to more time spent on something other than writing for actual income, and that time has to come from somewhere, either from previously personal time, from the full-time job, or from writing. From what I’ve seen, while there is some financial return [one hopes] from exposure to new readers, there’s also the “tar-baby” syndrome. That is, you’re stuck with it, because if you retreat from that presence, you’re ungrateful, or you’ve become isolated or all-too-egocentric, or fame has gone to your head, or…

The electronic forum doesn’t replace all the other aspects of writing. An author still has to produce, edit, and revise. If the author attended conventions, he or she still has to, because the tar-baby effect applies there as well. The electronic world just adds another dimension and another requirement for effort and professionalism — and this is true across most professions requiring paperwork and communications.

So why is it that everyone is so enthusiastic about so many devices and innovations that gnaw away at that most precious of personal resources — time?