Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quaxting and Other Recent Advances

The problem with technology is its incessant constancy.

There once was a time -- our children and grandchildren will find it difficult to believe -- when being out of touch did not constitute a crisis of communication. Being out of touch did not mean cell towers had crumbled or satellites had plummeted from their orbits. It was a common occurrence, not a cause for filing missing person reports or raising the national security level to Orange.

If you left your house, you were out of touch. If you were driving from point A to point B, you were out of touch anywhere in between. If you were in school, at work, in a meeting, at lunch, in the bathroom, or at a movie, you were out of touch.

Out of touch was not a permanent condition. Once you got home, or to a place that had a phone, you magically became available again. You could borrow your friend's house phone to "check in" with your parents, or sit at your office desk and call whomever your heart desired to call. You were reachable, and so was anyone within reasonable distance of a telephone.

When we took vacations we didn't waste time uploading pictures to Facebook, or checking the latest trending tweets, or bitching about the weak 3G signal at the campground that kept us from streaming YouTube's latest viral videos. We played cards and built campfires. We made conversation. We were happy the toilets at the KOA campground were separated by walls. We visited waterfalls and wildernesses and skyscrapers and monuments, and we didn't have 98 megapixel high-resolution tablet cameras with which to capture our experiences. We had binoculars and Kodak Instamatic cameras with Flipflashes you hoped would fire when you snapped a picture. And wherever you were, mountains or city, highway or back country road, you were most decidedly out of touch.

But not anymore!

Thanks to cell phones and smart phones and email and Skype, we're never more than a megabyte away from each other. My coworkers can reach me via email at any time of any day, regardless of necessity. Our daughter can quack a complaint at her boyfriend via text -- a new skill we call "quaxting" -- without his having to be in the same county, let alone be aware of what he might have done to warrant her quaxting him in the first place. My son can even answer an iChat video call from his uncle while sitting on the toilet. Technology has broken down all walls, it seems, even the bathroom walls.

And the sense of urgency is spread evenly over all modes of communication to the extent every bing of a text or bong of an arriving email requires an immediate response. I used to laugh that my in-laws had a telephone in their bathroom. Now we might as well have suppository phones. One clench of a butt cheek answers it, another clench ends the call, and a good sneeze gets you through to 911.

Maybe by the time I'm old and gray I'll be able to put down the cell phone, turn off the video phone, shut down the internet service, and disconnect for a day or two. I better send out an email blast and post about on Facebook before I do, just so nobody sends the police to my door to check on me.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

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