1 EAGLETON NOTES: The Simple Life - Not

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Simple Life - Not

Why have we suddenly started using this curious form of emphasising a statement?  Quoi? Je vous entends demander.  The making of a positive statement and then following it with 'not'.  Why the French?  Wondering if someone got the idea from the French use of 'pas' as a negation after the statement.  Just a thought.

OK.  Back to the theme.  The simple life - lost and gone for ever.  Just like Clementine.

I think that I was born with a 'need to be in communication' gene inherited from my Mum.  The first requirement in the house when Mum and Dad got married was a telephone.  I cannot envisage life without the telephone and have had a mobile/cellphone for over 20 years since the days when they were larger than bricks.  I still have some of them and have been meaning to blog on that for several years.

However during that 20 years the whole subject of interpersonal communication has changed far beyond the impact of the cellphone.

The World Wide Web effectively came into being in 1990 and in about 1992 the first web browsers started making progress towards universal inter-personal communication.  This was around the same time as the 2G cellular technology was introduced.

And with the advent of these two things the way most of us live our lives changed for ever.

I think that we have come to accept the WWW and the Internet, cellphones and now smartphones to such an extent that we fail to realise that instant communication for the 'ordinary' person is only a couple of decades old.

Before that even phone calls made over the terrestrial phone lines were expensive and often had to be booked in advance.  Remember Star Trek?  It started in 1966 and even many years later the 'communicator' was regarded as science fiction.  The flip top cellphone with international call availability has come and gone to be replaced by a computer we hold in our hand with over a million times more computing power than the first spacecraft.

So now we have SMS via our cellphones, chat by text or voice via the cellphone network or via SKYPE and suchlike, Facebook with public and private communication and Twitter.  We have emails too.  All of these offer instant communication almost worldwide.  As an aside I can recall even in 1998/9 when I was in the Australian outback, being able to ring my parents each night on my cellphone.

Of course we still have the public 'ordinary' telephone network and, of course, we can still put pen to paper and post a letter.  Gone are the months a letter could take to New Zealand.  Five days is about the norm now.

Blogland.  I haven't mentioned Blogland.  And it is Frances's post a few days ago Why do we blog? which started me on this course of thought.

So this evening (written Monday evening) as I am writing this blog post my next door neighbour keeps popping in (brought me some fresh mackerel he had caught today and just smoked).  I've had a phone call (you know, the sort where the house phone rings and you chat to someone).  My cellphone is going ten to the dozen with texts back and forth with a dear friend who is looking after her granddaughters whilst her daughter and grandson are sunning themselves with The Handbag in Napier on holiday.  I'm discussing, by email, bridge cameras with a friend in Fife whom I've known for 40 years.  I'm looking up the news on the volcanic eruption in New Zealand.  I'm playing four simultaneous games of Words with Friends.  I have various emails to write before sleep and I have a phone call to make to a friend from teenage years in Canada to discuss our holiday in Italy in a few weeks time.

In short I have in front of me the tools to communicate with almost anyone almost anywhere.

Someone made a comment on a Blogland friend's post recently that "today's tech like phones, you ignore real life people beside you so communication ironically breaks down".   I suppose that can happen and it's certainly a point of view I've heard expressed before.  However I would offer the contrary view that we now have an entirely different form of communication in that many of us communicate much more: it's just that we have added many different forms of communication to that of face to face talking.

One tiny example.  When I was a teenager a friend's father was the Chief Engineer on a deep sea ship which often spent 9 months away from Britain at a time. Whilst he was away his wife would get letters (often few and far between if I remember correctly) and that was it.  He arrived home a virtual stranger in his own house.  Now my son, Gaz, is a Chief Engineer and I can talk to him, email him, text him, Skype him and we need never lose touch at all.  I know which scenario I prefer. 

One spin-off that all this produces is an awareness of the time differences between us all.   Living in New Zealand half the year does make me very aware in any case but so that I don't get confused I have the following on my computer desktop.


This has been a bit of a disjointed ramble but I think it does serve the purpose of the heading: The Simple Life - Not!

20 comments:

  1. Love all the clocks on your desktop! In a much lesser form, we feel the same way as we travel from one time zone to another.
    As we Facetime with our grandkids, we are so appreciative of technology. Really, it's not the same as being there, but it's certainly the next best thing!
    I look forward to the post about the mobile/cellphones of the past. I'm sure it will be entertaining!!!

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    1. I wish that I'd kept some of the really old ones. I thought I had but I can't find them in the loft.

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  2. The best of all this is that though it's not free it is very cheap as we see in video footage from the third world.....Byte for byte the Royal mail must be the most expensive form of communication available.
    I wonder how long it will be before one no longer has to go to an airport, train station or car but can stand in a posh box be disassembled and shot through the ether to be reassembled at ones destination. Silly me that will never happen.....It will! Just ask Scottie..... I just hope it never goes awry.....Imagine arriving at ones destination and finding you have been assembled from a mish mosh of all your fellow travellers.

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    1. I'm sure that someone somewhere is working on it Adrian.

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  3. We literally live with friends via the internet!! Too bad we can't travel as fast as Adrian says. Imagine the way of the life that would be :) No visas or long waits for one. Cheers, Ruby

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    1. It would certainly make my life easier if I could get back to New Zealand for their winter croquet tournaments!

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  4. Sometimes I long for the simple life...

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    1. Me too but then I think of all that I would be missing and I remember the old saying 'be careful for what you wish in case your wish is granted'.

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    2. My personal life is very untidy Geeb. I seem to be in a constant state of mess and disorganization... Now, where did I put my diary...?

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  5. I don't know anyone who has neglected face-to-face contact because of cell phone and internet communication. Like you say, quite the contrary! For me, my online and offline lives overlap frequently, but if I need to choose between offline and online activities, I usually leave the virtual world for a while and firmly stand with both feet in the real world. The one enriches the other, not replaces it.

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    1. You have encapsulated the whole thing perfectly in one short paragraph Meike.

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  6. My partents basically used the telephone only for Important calls, and I certainly did not inherit any "chatting" gene from my mother. Writing genes on the other hand have probably been handed down in plenty from both sides of the family... I do agree it's really a rather wonderful thing to be able to be in instant contact with friends across the world now (in a variety of ways) rather than having to wait weeks and months for letters. I've been thinking a lot about it when going through the old postcards collected by my ancestors who emigrated to America in 1902. For sure all the new technology also cause stress; but I think that's more to do with having to keep up with all the changes and updates of hardware and software...

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    1. Yes, Monica, we communicate in such different and diverse ways. I usually prefer face to face communication or the spoken word and spend a lot of time on the telephone (though less than I used to). CJ has an absolute dislike of the telephone and never uses one (well hardly ever). I agree that it's usually the technology itself and not how we use it that is usually the cause of stress.

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  7. I don't spend nearly as much time on my mobile as most people. It's really there for those of our kids who won't get landlines, for emergencies, and for texting. I am saddened to see mothers pushing kids in pushchairs, chatting on their phones. The kids might as well be on their own. As for people in restaurants, texting... and when I was in hospital a couple of weeks ago, the girl in the bed next to me spent the whole of her parents' visit texting other people. Of course you wouldn't do any of that, GB, and they are a wonderful means of communication. But there should be a book of Manners for Mobile Users!

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    1. I spend very little time on my mobile as a means of talking (despite having lots as part of my data package) because I tend to use the landline. I'm sure there is a book such as you suggest - surely. The problem is that, like most books on manners, they are read and used by people who already have good manners.

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  8. Wow, I'm out of breath just reading your post...literally dizzy. Sounds like a grand central command post. That's what I call multi-tasking GB.
    Granted I use all the new technology too, but with moderation. I find it is quite easy to get caught up in the virtual world, and then you can't relate to the real world.
    I find it ill-mannered to sit at a gathering with friends and family, and continually text and check emails. Some of my friends have their cell phones on them at all times, and they grab and click when it rings just like a cowboy would grab his gun from a holster and shoot. Every ring MUST be answered. I've noticed that even in church (funerals included) as soon as a phone vibrates, one can see folks texting away during the Holy Eucharist...it sickens me. The priest should collect all phones at the church portico before the service and return them after the service.
    I am always fearful that humanity after making so many technological advances, will regress into a race who no longer speaks with a mouth, and therefore resorts to grunts and snorts to communicate with each other.
    I am appalled at the texting format that is creeping into the everyday written word, so much so, that I am fearful that we will not remember how to properly write or spell the English language.
    Don't get me wrong, I love all the new technology and gadgets, but at what price?
    I have said more than enough, but now I have an idea for another post...thanks.
    Hope you enjoy the fresh smoked mackerel from your neighbour, that was very kind of him.

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    1. The problem with cellphones is that they are a tool and, like all tools, they can be used or misused. I do agree that there is a very large number of people who misuse them from my point of view. I remember, though, when television came in how people said that it would destroy inter-personal communication. It may have had a significant effect. I can't recall. But it's not a claim I've heard anyone make recently: possibly because we have become used to televisions and learned to adapt and live with them.

      And, yes, thanks we did enjoy the mackerel.

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    2. Kwite rite Vctrya. I usd 2 B able 2 rite propr. Now ?

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    3. So funny! And this from one of the last of those who held out against the Split Infinitive. CJ and I being the other two of the triumvirate.

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    4. I have just proved the disadvantage of on-line forms of communication by losing a well thought out comment which had taken me about twenty five minutes to write. (Did you know if you accidentally click outside the box while commenting the whole thing disappears - you do now!!) I am not attempting to repeat it and will simply say this was an excellent and thought-provoking post GB.

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