I’ve had it with 20th Century Technology

I have four new year’s resolutions, all internet related.

– get rid of my land line
– drop cable tv
– stop home delivery of the paper
– kill my email

My cell does a much better job than the fixed phone, and is an incredible computer as well. It’s never more than an arm’s length away, whereas the land line tends to ring when I’m elsewhere. Why am I managing two different voicemail accounts? The calls I get on my cell are important and welcome, while the older phone gets mostly robocalls and telemarketers.

The high def cable modem/digital video recorder crashes frequently, and is annoyingly obtuse in its programming interface. Almost all the TV I’ve been watching lately is available on Netflix or iTunes, commercial free. The news programs I like have their own podcasts or webcasts.

I love my morning paper yet have no use for most of it: sports, classified, travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and a ton of advertising flyers. It all goes unread into the recycling bin.

The recently revised digital Windsor Star doesn’t have all the content that’s in the print edition. Nevertheless I’ve been making comparisons and so far everything I’ve read in the paper was on the app, as well as the website. There’s not a lot of room on my small kitchen table for all that sprawling newsprint, whereas my iPad, vertical in its dock, takes up as much space as the salt and pepper shakers. The digital subscription is also much cheaper.

Email is the worst. I don’t read it, I put it through triage. Few of my friends use email anymore for personal correspondence. That happens in texting, video chats and Facebook.  When they do send me email they tend to let me know in advance.  Because we all get so much junk mail.

I think I’m particularly vulnerable since I made my email address public on my old blog, and I’ve kept it for so long.  I also suspect that malware infections are harvesting the address books of my friends, especially those who use old Windows machines.

Even with two filters, one server side and another on my Mac, spam gets through with annoying frequency. Some legitimate messages get trapped in the junk folders so I have to triage them as well.

It’s almost as bad as the snail mail in my PO box. That’s pretty much all bulk mail advertisements now, and the post office took away the garbage and recycle bins so we have to take it home.

Then there is the chain mail. From time to time some of my oldest friends or newest acquaintances take up link blogging by email. It drives me nuts.

I already follow a couple hundred writers and websites using Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook. The rss feeds and tweets tend to be focussed discussions by people who are familiar with their subject matter. Facebook is more chaotic and idiosyncratic. I can read the most outrageous posts there and not feel the urge to comment. My Facebook friends are all people I like, and their craziness is part of their charm.

On the other hand email demands a response, or at least more mind share than I feel their urls often deserve. I would be happy if they at least made a more serious effort at blogging. Instead merely sending me a link to a webpage, with or without a taunting subject heading or quote line, usually results in my quick skimming the lead paragraph and then pressing the delete key. On a few occasions guilt sent me rummaging through the trash folder a day or so later, only to confirm my initial impression. Most of these links fail the “older technology” test: If email didn’t exist would you have phoned about it or mailed me a news clip?

Public blogging, and its semi-public Facebook cousin, enforces a certain discipline. When a number of people with a variety of viewpoints can read your posts and comments you tend to be more careful about accuracy and inflammatory or ambiguous language. Unless you want to start a flame war. And the flamers are usually anonymous, which is why to comment on this blog I want you to use my Facebook link to each post. I’m willing to quote exceptions on an individual basis, as long as I know the identity of whoever’s giving me the feedback.

A good friend recently sent me this link about global warming, adding “I know you used to disbelieve in climate change. I don’t now how you feel now, but, you may find this chart helpful.” I was pissed, because I’d never said that, and the post was a silly red herring. I’m a luke warmer, damn it and I have plenty of evidence to support that position.  It’s the size of future warming that’s in dispute, and the percentage of that warming arising from anthropogenic carbon dioxide.

one-third of all human emissions of CO2 have occurred since 1998. And temperatures haven’t budged as a result. – 3000 Quads

What I do disbelieve in is the existence of climate change deniers. The skeptics I read are in agreement with the alarmists, on the basic science.  Everyone knows the climate is changing.

I link bombed my friend back, with a number of studies and my previous writing on the subject.

He replied “Thanks Jim, but to be honest I don’t have the desire to go into depth about something I probably cannot change. Hope all’s well. It’s almost time to have a dinner and movie.”

We went out, had a great dinner and saw Looper.

From the formatting of his message I suspect my friend had simply forwarded to me a post he himself had received. These chain letters keep circulating around the internet, much like their physical antecedents, promising world peace, condemning evil politicians or seeking signatures on a petition to save the polar bears. It’s so easy to hit the forward command in your mail app, and believe you’ve done your bit to raise my consciousness. If he’d posted the link on Facebook he would perhaps have done some research first. Or not. Regardless I wouldn’t have been so offended.

I can’t quit email altogether. I need it for online shopping and banking. And I do sometimes collaborate on special projects which require document sharing and editing. I’m giving those correspondents a new email address. When I shut down my current account my other contacts will be encouraged to keep in touch by phone (voice, video or text) or Facebook. If they can’t stand Facebook I would consider Google+. But no more email gossip, please.

Of course, these are New Year’s Resolutions. And you know I have this thing about procrastination.

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1 Response to I’ve had it with 20th Century Technology

  1. Pingback: Some Resolution on my Resolutions | Not Now

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