Life Without Our Electronic Toys

“Dumb Stuff to Do Without Your Devices,” by Joe Queenan. The Wall Street Journal, 12/5/2015.

I often read exhortations to eliminate all of my electronic devices to leave time for important stuff, like . . . uhh, . . . let me think of one.

Shape up and get serious! they say. You, too, can do great things, maybe even pay more attention to your spouse, if you will only get over your fascination with electronic gadgets. Pierre du Pont would have never rescued the Dupont company, and General Motors, and built Longwood Gardens, if he was always Tweeting, Googling, and writing blogs.

Queenan knows from personal experience, as I do, that this theory is nonsense. A friend asked him to recommend any good books he has recently read, and he sent him 10 titles. But he had read 108 books in just the last year (way, way more then me), so 98 of those represent wasted time. Most, he admits, were trashy thrillers with “Girl” in the title. (In my day, it would have been anything by Mickey Spillane.)  Just reading a book, any book, is not necessarily commendable.

If we weren’t wasting so much time tweeting and texting, the purists claim, we would be analyzing classical music, translating French documents, and maybe even rescuing General Motors all over again. Rubbish, says Queenan. At best, we would be reading more trashy novels. Human nature requires a lot of fiber in our mental diet.  (Even Einstein seems to have thought more about other women than space-time relativity.)

I agree. Like the rest of us, there is not much to give up when we have not gotten into it in the first place. When Twitter first started, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would use such a thing, so I signed up to see if I was somehow missing the point. I immediately saw my first impression was correct, and I have not used the account since. But, this automatically gave me a Facebook account, too, that I never use. Occasionally, I get an email request from one of my granddaughter’s friends to friend me, whatever “friend” means as a verb. I am sure the email is sent automatically without their knowledge, and they have no real desire to add me to their list of friends and alert me to their daily activities.

I have a desktop computer and a tablet, but no cell phone.  I do Google a lot, about half a dozen times a day, but I do not consider that wasted time.  I see it as efficiently educating myself.  I admit even that has some mental trash, such as the meaning of “frottage” that I looked up recently, but it is still educational.  In days past, each search would mean driving to the library and paging through a shelf of books.  Googling at home in my jammies is a lot more convenient, and I get the answer in less than a minute (the time it takes to type the question).

Now, if I could only cure this blogging habit.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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