Thinking back now, I think it was about January 2009 – not long after my fifty-seventh birthday – that I stopped worrying about modern technology.
Or as the young of today might more accurately put it, finally gave up, let go, and stopped trying to keep up with it.
The vehicle involved in this cathartic transition was my smartphone. Having tried to retain a finger-tip grasp upon my version of the quest to remain ‘current’ by acquiring one and then joining Twitter, for about eight months I tried to ape my juniors by going online at all hours of the day and night, attempting to write and receive emails and texts and posting tweets about the train I was intending to catch being four and a half minutes late to literally nobody at all.
And then I grew up and gave up. It was a gradual process. First I began just reading my emails on my smartphone and then waiting to get home before I responded to them on my computer. Then I realised that the practice of going online via my smartphone was irritating and costly – I couldn’t see what I was looking properly at on my smartphone screen (it was too small) and it was far more satisfactory all round accessing the internet on my computer.
The chief and immediate benefit was that I was no longer one of those irritating idiots walking up the street bumping into people (or worse, lamp posts or buildings) because I was distracted by looking at things on my smartphone.
Then I gave up tweeting and cancelled my Twitter account – now that was a blessed relief.
As was cancelling my membership of Linked-In, which I had joined only on the recommendation of a pal without really understanding why I should, despite this ‘departure’ still giving me residual problems to this day. I still get invitations to join the ‘friendship groups’ of people on Linked-In I don’t know and have never heard of, despite never having either invited anyone to ‘link’ with me, or having accepted an invitation from anyone else to ‘link’ with them, in the entire duration of my membership.
These days I operate my latest smartphone purely as a telephone and texting machine. I have disabled its ‘mobile data’ facility and never use it to go online or email. The excitements of social media (my brief flirtation with Twitter aside) have passed me by. Occasionally people of my own age tell me of the joys of things like Instagram – on which young people apparently share photographs – and something else (of which I’ve forgotten the name) via which people can establish their own mini-social groups and ‘chat’ for free in real-time, but I’m just not interested.
I don’t generally take photographs, but when I do I use a snappy-snap digital camera in preference to my smartphone – even though I’ve been told smartphone cameras are the equal of (or better than) digital cameras quality-wise. I do keep a few photographs on my smartphone – most of them are of my kids, partly for sentimental reasons and/or because sometimes it’s useful and/or better to be able to show images of them when third parties ask about them and their news or whereabouts.
Why have I ‘withdrawn’ from all these modern means of mass communication?
The answer is basically because I’ve found it infinitely more preferable to resort to using my phone to make phone calls and my camera to take photographs.
And it’s the same reason that I continue to buy my electricity from a company with electricity in the title … and my gas from one with ‘gas’ in its name, rather than an electricity company that is also offering to supply my gas (at a cheaper rate than my gas company does) … or vice versa.
To be honest, I just find this approach simpler and easier as a means of getting through life.
In 2016, just like Bob Dylan in his song Standing In The Doorway (off his truly great Time Out Of Mind album of 1997), I ‘eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry’.
It’s not rocket science, it’s just doing what you want to do when you want to do it.
If I want to sleep, I go to my bedroom and hit the pillow.
If I want to be on my own, I shut the world out and do my own thing – what’s not to like about that?
If I want to hear some music, a rarer and rarer occurrence I hasten to add, I put CD into my CD player.
If I want to watch something on TV I do that, or maybe record and watch it when I want to, not when some broadcaster chooses to transmit it.
And that’s my essential point today.
Recently I’ve heard instances of people opting to watch TV online rather than via conventional (i.e. terrestrial, cable or satellite) providers, partly because it’s cheaper.
Meanwhile I still sit here paying roughly £40 per month under my smartphone contract (of which perhaps half the cost relates to online and other services that I never use) and I’m hooked to a notionally wonderful cable television contract that now costs me about £120 per month when in fact I only ever tune to about 20 of its 300-odd channels.
Surely the way of the future is that one day all customers will have theoretical access to literally everything … but only pay for that which they actually use. Bundles of services (or radio or television channels) are only a cute way of fleecing the general public by selling them what they don’t want or need.
I used to think that capitalism was based upon the art/skill of giving the public what they want, but that’s not quite the case. At its core it’s actually about persuading the public to buy things they didn’t know they didn’t want or need.