BARRETT: A question of quality of life

 

 

Tom Barrett

The iPod accentuates the single over the album. The new James Bond movie flashes action in camera shots that seem to change every second. News cycles bounce from story to story, looking for a new fix to hold audiences until the next headline grabber.

Communication avenues change constantly. Want to stay in touch with a friend from home? Just click on his Facebook – you don’t even have to call. Not that you have to call, anyway – talking on the phone became tedious, so now we text. But why text when you can Skype? (The answer is that you’re in class when you text and you can’t Skype in class).

Somewhere along the line culture took a sharp turn, and our way of processing information and entertainment drifted in a new direction. On the whole, the shift tends to put an emphasis on the quick over the time-consuming, the tip over the trenches, the sparkle over the simple.

People who listen to albums fell into the minority. People who watch movies where people talk gradually became a niche, indie crowd after the advent of “Star Wars” and special effects. People who read newspapers are a dying breed, with many now using the Internet.

Record sales started rapidly declining some years back with the introduction of iTunes. Movies became popularly defined by rental stores aptly named Blockbuster and the slow death of the newspaper can be seen in the hard times that have befallen even The New York Times – the once invincible newspaper king has seen advertising revenues plummet and has no clear way to pay off its significant debt.

Many newspapers have even started dropping the AP wire service, with CNN reportedly trying to swoop in to take its spot at a cheaper rate. That would be the same, loveable CNN who published an article last week on the epic Guns ‘N’ Roses/Dr. Pepper battle, commenting on the situation, “No one is LOL.” I agree with Pitchfork’s assessment that it’s hilarious when the esteemed CNN publishes a sentence like that. (After reading it, I was ROFL.)

But is all of this change a bad thing? Personally, I tend to think not. At the least, we’re not yet living in a Brave New World.

While there are drawbacks to some elements of a tech-savvy society, it has undeniable benefits. The Internet, when used to its potential, offers the ability to access a vast array of accurate, up-to-date information from around the world. Facebook does allow friends to stay connected in their busy lives, and Skype grants the opportunity for people to visually communicate over vast distances (which, if used for military families especially, can be a great thing). And special effects in movies can add to artistic quality or provide a perhaps needed break of popcorn fun.

Besides, it’s still quite possible to read both The New York Times and watch “The Daily Dish,” to send text messages and write eloquent papers, to enjoy “Indiana Jones” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and to listen to a Radiohead album and a Katy Perry single. If you’re feeling a little bit crazy, you can even still read a book and perpetuate the brilliance of written language. Or you could have a meaningful conversation with a person that doesn’t involve the use of electronic devices.

The growth of technology does not worry me. What does worry me is the possibility that it might replace, rather than complement, what we already have.

Our society already tilts toward abbreviation. My hope is that the pendulum won’t continue to swing too far in the direction of the fast and the furious – that we’ll have time to think, contemplate, talk to each other and use technology to enhance our lives instead of dictating them. (But that’s just IMHO.)

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Jonas Kane is a junior English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]