Thoughts That Hurt to Think #103 – Modern Isn’t Always Better!

Technology is a fabulous thing, in many regards. Virtually everything about how most people live their lives has changed in some way due to stuff that didn’t exist at all thirty years ago, and that’s pretty cool. New ideas take shape around us on a pretty regular basis, helping us do the same old things we’ve always done in inventive new ways.

On the other hand, the way of technology has sort of seeped into how we do everything else; and in a lot of ways, it has kind of become the way we do just about all those things. The whole situation has gotten a little out of hand, despite the fact that we all seem to have grown accustomed to doing things this new way pretty quickly.

The first time I bought a mobile phone, I was pretty sure I was set for life in that department. Cellular was finally being replaced with digital, and that was the only thing I had really been waiting on. Clear calls were all I needed, although I did think more than once that maybe it would be nice to be able to listen to the radio on the same headphone set I took calls on. Everyone I mentioned the possibility to said the technology for that would come along eventually, which didn’t help much.

I had already bought a phone, after all; why would I ever buy another? Making and receiving calls wherever and whenever I wanted was more than I had ever needed before, but it was nice to have it now. If some newfangled gadget came along that was better than the one I had, it would be silly to replace my phone unless it broke or something.

That may sound preposterous, today; but it was a common way to look at things just a few thousand days ago.

Texting didn’t seem like such a great idea when it first came out, at least to me. I figured it was a wonderful chance to see how little people cared about spelling and punctuation; except we already had email for that. I changed providers right around the time the craze started, and got a new phone for free; I didn’t realize the thing received texts until I started getting them, and all I could think to do was reply that I didn’t text and please call me if you needed something from me. I spelled everything right, of course; I even used proper punctuation.

Despite all that, the texts kept coming. These were the days when you had to hit a number key a certain amount of times to get the letter you wanted, and most quick calls could convey way more information than a short text message; but sometimes you just have to adjust to the way people around you are doing things, so that’s what I did. Soon enough, I was one of those people telling others how handy it was to be able to text someone instead of calling; and several free phones later, I finally got a keypad and autocorrect and autocomplete and all that jazz.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped wondering why I would want to change my phone out periodically. It had become much more than a phone, over the years; and every time I got a new one it became a little more intertwined with my life than the last one had been. Some version of a mobile phone has been constantly by my side for about twenty years now, and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I have replaced one model to upgrade to another.

Let’s compare that to my first experience with phones.

The whole time I spent growing up, we had all of about two phones. First it was a rotary, those horrible old time suckers that no one will remember in a hundred years; all my early memories of dialing are tainted by the torturous wait between dialing numbers. Then we got the push button model, and it hung on the wall for all the rest of the years I lived with my parents. We had a fifty foot cord between the wall and the phone base, and another fifty foot cord going from the base to the handset. That was as close to wireless as you could get back then, and it seemed frivolous to get one when they did come out. A hundred feet was plenty of travel space, when you were on the phone.

Of course, all those cords could get pretty messy; and it was easy to trip yourself up as you wandered the house, if you didn’t pay attention to them. That was just the way things were, though; you got a thing and learned to live with it, even if the way it worked was not ideal. Nowadays it’s so much easier to toss a thing when a better thing comes along, especially when nearly everyone else is following the same policy.

If I used a ten year old phone, I would be the only person I know using such ancient technology. That’s fine, I suppose; especially when phones get so much better on a pretty regular timetable. Other stuff stays much the same over time, though; and many of us have a tendency to replace previously permanent fixtures in our lives as if it were technology. From furniture to footwear, out with the old and in with the new seems to be a much more popular philosophy than finding something we can live with forever.

Of all the people I’ve known, only a couple owned shoes they had resoled from time to time. Everyone else buys new shoes and tosses the old ones when they wear out, just like I do. I’ve driven a few cars for nine or ten years, which is longer than a lot of people do; but I’ve never had one much longer than that. It’s like the shoes I keep replacing: at some point something goes wrong that would cost more to fix than the old ones are worth, and it’s easier to just move on with different shoes or wheels.

A lot of things used to be made with longevity in mind, and people would pass down all sorts of things from furniture to clothing items to jewelry. Those things are still being passed down, but they’re very seldom stuff made in this era. Families with ancient keepsakes get to keep them in the family for generations to come, while anyone trying to start a new tradition is better off finding some already old stuff and handing that down. Maybe some handmade furniture will get built during this time, and will be sturdy enough to pass it down; but I’ve known about as many people that make their own furniture as I have people who resole old shoes, and it’s nowhere close to one in a hundred in my experience.

Even people who keep their houses awhile often like to remodel, and keep up with current trends; the day of the craftsman home is essentially gone, and the concept of a timeless look seemed to go right along with it. Others move every seven to ten years or so, like I always have; and the memories of family homes have become memories of multiple family homes more often than not. Some of us might be able to drive by the house we grew up in, but most of us can’t walk in and make ourselves at home. It belongs to someone else now, after all.

I suppose it all makes sense, that we would become a society more bent on replacing stuff than we are on keeping it in good working order. I for one don’t want to inherit any old iPhones or IKEA furniture, and I can’t imagine anyone else would either. We may have been collectively conditioned to buy new stuff, or want to; but now that the conditioning is in place, I can’t deny that I get a thrill when I buy something new. As with most other thoughts that hurt to think, we might be better off just thinking about these things less. After all, it’s way easier than attempting to make the gargantuan effort of trying to do something about everything.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,
Jay

J.K. Norry
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning
Jay@JayNorry.com
Twitter: @JayNorry

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