In her response to my last post—“Is It Still ‘Print’ If I’m Reading It Online?” of February 17––a longtime friend and neighbor made it clear to me that I hadn’t been. So in this post, I’d like to give clarity another try.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Yes, part of what I wrote in my post of February 17 was a lament for the gone worlds of publishing, advertising and, to a lesser extent, branding that I knew. But it was not a call to resurrect those worlds and banish the digital communications technologies that have transformed and/or replaced them. We made that choice long ago.
Here’s the culprit: Violating the most fundamental rule of communications, I buried the point of that earlier post in the next-to-last paragraph, where I asked, How much of the digital communications revolution do I want to admit into my life?
A CRUCIAL DECISION
Deciding how much or how little to become digitally involved is not a small question. It is not simply about the choice of an information delivery system. And it’s not simply about buying this gadget, not that.
Rather it’s the choice—through one’s ownership and use of computers, cell phones, Blackberries and an evolving array of game-changing offshoots––to become part of a globally interconnected digital communications network.
It’s a network whose technologies enable an astounding range of possibilities, but I view it warily. I don’t want the computer and its offshoots to become the platform on which I conduct the greater part of my life.
>>I don’t have a cell phone because (a) I don’t like talking on the phone (e-mail is my salvation) and (b) I don’t want to be reachable all the time.
>>I won’t buy a new digital TV to replace the old one. The only thing I ever watch is the News Hour on 13 and I can see that online. Yield: One less cluttered tabletop.
>>I’ve risked offending friends by declining their invitations to join Facebook and requesting that we communicate by regular e-mail instead. So far, no negative reactions.
In each case, though, as you’ve noticed, I’ve used a computer to solve a digital communications ‘problem.’
TIME AND SPACE FOR SOLITUDE
But there are other problems that are less easily remedied. Detach yourself from a major platform of social and political dialogue like TV, for example, and you lose touch with a key element of popular culture.
When the conversational references turn to The Simpsons or Beavis ‘n Butthead, I’ll suffer ignorance gladly; but what about stuff that really matters?
On the other hand, there are times when solitude and immersion in a kind of meditative quiet matter more than anything else possibly could. That’s what I’m trying to leave time and space for.