February 16, 2013

MUSINGS: What's Your Favourite Distraction?

I have been jotting down notes, now in a pile on my desk. Things I wanted to share with my blog readers...What's the difference between the meteorite that crash-landed in the middle of Russia yesterday and the asteroid that danced with our satellites later the same day? Or why I miss library index cards. The latest update on this city's police-with-attitude. But I haven't had time to focus long enough to write a post. Want to know why? Because I bought a tablet (after waiting for them to come down in price) and am HUGELY distracted.

Those of you who are tech-savvy and loaded with apps will get it. First, I wasted hours on Angry Birds (which, ultimately, made me angry - I could feel my stress levels rising as I went after those chuckling pigs while trying to decipher the graphics-only interface). Then I found myself wasting time just looking at all the available apps. There are thousands of games, thousands of organizing tools (how many ways can you make a list?), a cat who purrs and repeats what you say, free magazines, free photos, free virtual tours, free weather, free news, free email, free texts, free shopping, free images...want to analyze your nose-picking style? There's an app for that.

Technology is a distraction. But then, so is television. Watching a movie. Reading a book. Listening to music. Anything that takes your mind away from the reality around you is a distraction. Is nature a distraction? If I'm standing listening to the rush of the waterfalls, the chorus of birdsong in the woods, the ocean waves on a beach... is that the same? Obviously not, but the human mind may conceivably lose its ability to distinguish between the two... perhaps soon we will prefer virtual travel, free and safe. Virtual dreams, programmed to re-wire our brains for added courage, calm or confidence. Virtual shopping, virtual friends, virtual lives, so much more convenient and accessible. The matrix scenario is subtle, yet there. I can feel myself getting used to online reading, reaching for the tablet instead of my dictionary, listening for the "ping" of an incoming message.

For now, I'm taking my tablet with me wherever I go, ready to Google, text, email, share photos, watch videos and listen to music... I can Skype my sister, text my BFF, send email and access documents. It's not a phone, and you can't download sophisticated software, which stops it just short of being the one-for-all tool I'm still waiting for. However, this tablet might conceivably replace my mobile phone and laptop (which I now use only to watch Netflix and streaming TV). And I think that's the trick. If you're going to adopt new technology, make sure it's not adding to a growing pile of sometimes-used junk, but replacing something and becoming useful as a means of connecting and communicating. Otherwise, it's just another toy. A damn good toy.

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