Snail’s Pace

The internet was playing up, the email account had been hacked yet again, pages were taking up to ten minutes each to load and anything that had images or video took longer. It was going to be one of those days. It seems to be a common problem and it makes trying to work exceedingly difficult as well as frustrating. It highlights just how dependant we have become on a technology that really is quite new. Society has adopted computers and the internet wholesale and within a generation we have, rather than finding a little slot within our lives into which it might fit, changed our entire lifestyle to work with it.

It is amazing when you really look at it…millions of people use the internet daily; the world, or so it feels, would simply collapse in so many ways without its possibilities yet, when my own children were young, it did not exist. So many technological advances within a lifetime or two that have completely changed the face of the world. Television and communications media, transport… cars and flight that were once the privilege of the few who could afford them are now a part of normality…There are probably more and stranger things out there than the writers of the Jetsons, could have imagined in 1962. Mobile phones… more people own one than have decent sanitation, apparently… what does that say about us as a global family, I wonder?

Even the way we communicate has changed with instant messaging, video calls, text and email. We ‘speak’ to people all around the globe every day, time and distance no longer matter, spontaneous comments can be sent in a millisecond, news shared in a nanosecond. We are more aware of global events and can participate in them in real time, seeing pictures and hearing sounds almost as they happen and sharing the ensuing emotions with those caught in the midst of the unfolding moment. The downside of that is the risk of desensitisation as we are daily faced with images of atrocity and tragedy that we can simply accept as part of the human condition. We take a stand for or against a cause, but the images that should move us have lost their edge… we forget that these are women, children, fathers, sons… like our own. Real human lives edged in blood… closer than at any time in history, yet, in many ways, more distant through habituation.

The double edged sword that opens the world for us to explore also isolates us from face to face interaction in many ways. If it were not for the dog and caring for my son daily, I would no longer need a voice for weeks on end. I see no-one and speak seldom when at home; suburbia becomes a hermitage for many as social interaction becomes virtual and we lose the warmth of a human smile or the touch of a hand as we speak.

Handwritten letters are now a rarity and, if you’ll pardon me for waxing romantic, you can’t tie emails up with ribbon and keep them for a lifetime… printing them out is just not the same. How much of our real, personal histories will we be able to leave for future generations from passworded accounts and encrypted documents… and would it be the same without the trace of a human hand on paper?

Veracity too has taken a hit. Not so long ago a letter was either real or forged; now the printed word can be subtly altered, a word here or there that changes the focus, softens an edge or alters the emotive content. Images are tweaked, ‘photoshopped’… a new verb along with ‘googling’ to enter our language. We run to the internet for information when we know there is a huge amount of inaccuracy online, yet, of course, there is also a vast store of knowledge, art, literature and opinion available to us at the touch of a key… more than ever before in history.

We have adopted the new technology and will, no doubt, do the same when the ‘internet of things’ comes into our lives and every gadget we own is capable of communicating vital information about our statistics and habits. Once again there is the potential for enormous good as well as the capacity for abuse, misuse and an Orwellian future. We can’t even say it is ‘up to us’ as we, the ordinary people, will have little voice when there is large-scale corporate profit involved.

We are, however, incredibly adaptable creatures. Since the advent of the technological revolution that has become such an intrinsic element of our everyday lives we have managed to acquire new skills, create a common language to deal with them and accept a whole string of new terms for hitherto unknown events and needs. We seem to be developing a new skillset for communication that is, perhaps, more aware than ever of the use of language itself. Purists may rail against ‘text-ese’ terms and abbreviations and particularly the ubiquitous emoticon, but the more I look at the etymology of words since working on the books, the more I see that this is what we have always done and how our modern language has evolved from its ancient counterparts.

Emoticons allow us to take a possibly perceived sting out of our words or express something beyond them. They have evolved an unspoken protocol of their own and can both instigate and terminate a deeper conversation. We even seem to be evolving a kind of sixth sense that can read between words to emotions. As always, with the written word much depends on the reader’s own inner voice and character and it is easy to wall oneself in within the ego and miss the kernel of hurt, the laughter, longing or raillery in the words of another. Mind you, we can just as easily fail to see those things when they are in front of our eyes if we are too caught up in our own lives. Yet those with any kind of empathy or care for their fellow man seem able to pick up a good deal from a curt status update on social media, or through a brief text or email. It is as if lacking the visual clues of body language and expression, the timbre of a voice or the averted eyes we have learned to read them in the choice of word and the turn of a phrase.

I wonder if, as we move into a new phase of technological adventure, we are also moving towards a need to concentrate more on the unseen skills of being human; those abstract, unquantifiable qualities such as awareness, discretion and empathy and exercise a more mature and conscious attention and discrimination where our interactions are concerned. At no time in the history of our species has there been such possibility for communication and understanding, or for man to unite behind common goals… and, of course, the obverse of that is also true. In that, at least, it is up to us, as individuals, to choose which way we go.

Though it would help if our internet connections were actually reliable…

43 thoughts on “Snail’s Pace

  1. Both of us can still remember a time when we used a typewriter, or a fountain pen, to create a letter. We received a letter back two weeks later. “Instant” communication was a telephone call and anything outside your city was considered “long distance.” In terms of today’s costs, a 10 minute phone call could cost $20.00 or more.

    Present day: We can send a message from England to Florida in seconds — such as this one.

    I will now take a moment to be thankful for the treasure of meeting you through the technology that made it possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I waited a week for a response to letters from home, even when only living in France… and long dsitance calls were simply for emergencies.

      I love the ease with which we can communicate these days and stay in touch almost instananeously…
      But I deplore the nagging insistence that we always have to answer ‘NOW’… rather than taking time to compose a thoughtful respose.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree.

        As a result, we send out “1st drafts” instead of quality communication.

        I was a secretary in various states from the age of 20 until 31. Two years after graduating from college at the age of 36. I had to get a job as a receptionist. A lot had changed during the 4 years I was in college: Most of the communication was via email by that time.

        We went from “Dear Sue,” to “Hey Sue” or “Hi Sue.” Not that I was fond of writing “Dear” to someone I hated, but….”hey”?

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        1. I know… I rather miss the days of handwritten missives and that personal touch that actually meant something to both writer and reader.

          These days, regardless of the genuine fondness or sentiment that may be within an email, the way we write has lost that signature ‘warmth’ and email-ese tends towards the alomost curt and businesslike.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. As with all things in life, there are pros and cons to technology. I did manage to weave some of the negatives into my book, Through the Nethergate, as they are very close to my heart. The ease with which technology can be adapted for evil purposes is rather frightening. It is an amazing tool for people who use it for ‘honest’ research, but it is also easy to find one-sided and fantastical groupings and propaganda on the internet. When I research anything, even general historical topics, I collaborate the outcomes on several sites, if possible. One has to be very careful of manipulation of facts and ‘fake news’ although these things pop up more in political and religious populist conversations.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On th eone hand, I love that we do have the freedom to voice opinion as well as share facts… but it does make it a minefield for researchers seeking genuine information. More than ever, we are responsible for engaging our critical faculties, cross checking, reading research at source and actually thinking and taking responsibility for what we choose to accept as our perspective.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I read several sites when researching. There is so much misinformation out there. Sadly, though, Sue, I don’t see much exercising critical faculties, nor much cross-checking of facts, or the other things you say.
        Like everything else, the internet can be a great influence for good, but it has equally bad influences.

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  3. We begin to face a challenge with technology I think. It has done everything you say above but in the west there is a push to creating human being v2 by incorporating technology and AI specifically in the human – the transhuman. Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies able to greatly modify or enhance human intellect and physiology. Scares me to death. There is another movement dead set against transhumanism that is emerging in the Slavic world and led from Russia. Oh, the world used to be so simple….

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    1. We will always over complicate what should be simple. I can quite see the benefits of incorporating some aspects of tech into the body… I am pretty sure Nick would bite your hand off if a chip could make him walk again… but there are moral and ethical limits that some would seek to ignore.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think as we have become more digital, we have to some extent lost of lot of the communicative emotions that are characteristic of being human – empathy and sympathy, love and understanding. Hard to express digitally…in lieu of a pat on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss.

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    1. Absolutely. And although and emoticon can add a symbolic ‘touch’ to an email, it is no substitute for the underlying currents and emotional associations of presence or even the words we once used in letter writing.

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  5. When the children were young I kept saying I would start learning about computers when the youngest started school – I didn’t. .. when I finally got persuaded and immersed and started widening my access to the ether I expected everything to happen instantly. Even though it is a miracle all we can do, we get enraged when the instant Facetime link to the other side of the world freezes!

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  6. Definitely a double-edged sword. I do love having an answer immediately instead of waiting for the library to open, driving there, etc. I feel positively spoiled by the instantaneous reply!
    Sadly, penmanship is antiquated. Both my kids received only a rudimentary introduction to script and were forced to complete all work on the computer with homework submitted from the printer. Now as adults, they tell me they can’t read my writing! 40 years of journals intended to allow them insight into who their mother was and is, all for nothing. I guess it is what it is. I still have my mother’s journals and a few letters, and it feels like a true visit from her whenever I read them. i expect there will be handwriting analysts in the future that will scan work and print it out for a fee!

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    1. Yes, especially with cursive script being no longer taught to sa many youngsters at all, family documents of a mere genration ago will no longer be ‘open books’, but mysteries…and will they even be preserved?
      That is where self-publishing comes into its own for me.We all have stories to tell…

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  7. I loved this Sue. I miss handwritten letters too. I still write longhand everything in my journal before putting into computer. Life is much too speedy now. We didn’t use to have a million things to do in one day. I’d go back to the 80s in a heartbeat ❤

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  8. I agree about the double edged sword… Whilst I am very grateful to have the contact with the outside world and family and friends during this pandemic, I do feel the loss of the written letter, card, postcard that used to land on the mat with a satisfying thump and would brighten the day. The ping on incoming emails is not quite the same, however welcome they might be. I also feel that our language in the global sense is being changed as texting and abbreviated messages are sent electronically and as you say, children might well be losing the skill of beautiful handwriting, but mine has gone to pot now and I have to think very carefully about what I am doing!

    I guess the responsibility is ours to manage the time we spend and where we spend it.. and more importantly what we share when we do… I also noticed the web was like treacle last week and from what I can gather it was down to the platforms purging millions of users that were abusing community standards!! Whilst I don’t agree with inciting violence and hatred, I do think that free speech is coming at a heavy price now…

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    1. Protecting our right and duty to speak out when there is a need is something we will all have to take a hand in, I believe, over teh coming years. It s too easy, when there are few places to make oneself heard for a voice to be silenced.

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  9. I remember, CLEARLY! the very first job I held that when the electricity, computers or internet connection went down, I had ‘nothing to do’ – – nothing to dust, organize, streamline for future, stock for next shift, etc. AND I TRIED hard to find something! Unfortunately, I had done a lot of the ‘don’t need a computer/light/etc.’ stuff when I inherited a hot mess in a new position – – I sat there, stumped, realizing, the power would come back on sometime in the next hour or so – and yet, I had already taken my ‘lunchtime’ and I couldn’t see one single thing I could do that conceivably be considered ‘work that needed done for the betterment of my employer’ – – LOL I still send hand written cards – – I type letters and output into accessibility friendly (computer can read!) pdfs so my long time friends, who have lost their site, get a ‘letter’ – I call more than I text – I call less for those who prefer to text/email – I have fashioned a life where if the power goes out, I have a way to drink, eat, keep warm, do something, until it comes back on – – I work a job that means if the internet is out, I can still ‘work on things’ and if the power is out? Well…..nope – other than to make a mindmap, project plan or organize a nav menu to be useful on a legal pad – which is double work – cuz when power back on – I’ll have to type into some snazzy software to send to the client, so they do not think me a backwards idiot – – LOL I hope the events of the past few years in tech, cultures, current events and the fall out from it DOES galvanize the greater human populace to see – “Um, if all goes well! I have at my fingertips instant communication ability and my job to see how I choose to use it – for good or for ill” – But then, to me, I keep thinking about tech/power, etc., modern tools and my inner brain committee whispers to me a quote from a documentary from long, long ago…..”Any advanced civilization finds the seeds of vulnerability and destruction within the complexity and dependency on it’s advancements” –

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      1. Yup – it’s a quote from an ‘expert’ that was featured in the documentary, “Prophets of Doom” that came out years and years ago – experts assembled together to talk about clean water, environmental issues, technology, AI, etc., etc., etc. besides that above paraphrased quote, I also remember his intro to it – ” I depend upon my car to commute to my job and live my life, but if it dies tomorrow I can’t fix it – I don’t know how and even if I did, if no ability to order in parts, I don’t know how to fashion those parts AND even if I did, I wouldn’t have the local resources to make those parts” again – paraphrased – it’s STILL on my Christmas List every year when I’m asked for one – that said – they brought together 5 (or was it 6?) experts on various topics they thought important to literally everyone in the world – and they filmed them meeting together for the first time (to film) and each of them said why their ‘field/topic’ was the most important – then each expert got a segment and the last of the show closed with them all in the same room, again and saying, “I thought my thing was important, but NOW I know, this is really more important” – – they still loved what they do – they still wanted to spend their life working in that field – but, overall? My memory of the show seen so long ago? They all said their piece, came back together and agreed, “Clean Water” is the main priority we should focus on first” for all the other things to happen – it has just stuck with me – all these years – the title was purposefully made for marketing and many I have recommended it to say, “oh, Tamrah, I just can’t bear to watch – is it about Yellowstone or Armegeddon?” – but some watch – some learn – some change – some double down on their ‘specific area of passion” – etc. But that show, the experts in it, overall, made a long and lasting impression on me – for many, many reasons!

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          1. Yup – Clean water, back at the time it was filmed, was seen by many top experts as the first thing to address – to avoid really bad things, like war, poverty, famine, pandemics, etc. That’s so AWESOME! you worked in that field – I read a book a few years back written by a guy that went from ‘rich nightclub playboy’ to working in the Peace Corps, learning about clean water, and starting/funding a non-profit to ‘get er done’ – – my main take away? “okay, never write off the potentional of good when reading things about rich playboys who do nothing but nightclub and social media tweet for years LOL – Life lesson learned to get me over my biases — – on some fronts – – LOL

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