Instant results don't allow our brains to flex their muscles, to recall a name or face or place. What's worse is that we don't get to debate or free-associate. Michael set the needle down on a Fugees album. "Where do you think the name 'shiitake' came from?" I inquire. The conversation that followed was neither accurate nor informative, but we laughed our asses off.

The difference between getting something via snail mail and opening an e-mail is like the difference between a visit from Kate Beckinsale or Snooki. While there are advantages to quick, easy, and disposable, First Class is, well, first class. E-mail is clearly what's killing the post office, so, as a public service, I ask my friends to write me letters this week — and each and every person complains about what a physical hardship it would be to hand-scribe a communique. My total mail haul: eight credit-card offers, seven realtor cards, 15 bills, four magazines, three ValuPacs, six nonprofit solicitations (tree-killers all!), and four personal letters (two from the same beautiful, fabulous person). I reply to each. By the end, my hand is killing me.

I ask Jenny if she'd dine with me in the dark. While not one of those sensory events where they seat you in a pitch-black room and serve you dinner while you blindly grope your companion and silverware, a blackout would be an opportunity to get to know someone without distraction.

For Jenny, a professional recruiter and the single mother of an 11-year-old, a blackout — if only for an evening — is an unusual and risky choice. (Her babysitter had the name of the restaurant if all hell broke loose.) "This is seriously nerve-wracking," she notes, setting her purse on the floor. "What am I supposed to do with my hands?" I keep my suggestions to myself.

During dinner, we look at each other — a lot. We wind up talking, almost too much. Where spare moments had previously been filled with screen time, we have to — gasp — make eye contact. (Hers are a beautiful teal with a halo of amber circling like Saturn rings.)

At one point I get nervous and engage the couple next to us in conversation. (Bad idea.) I tell a story I hadn't remembered until now. Feeling energized and liberated, we take a long walk after dinner, holding our phone-free hands and enjoying the uninterrupted intimacy.

"Would you do this with me again?" I ask. Powering up her phone, she replies, "Text me and find out."


People give me crap about the fact that I still take home newspaper delivery. Yes, I realize the content is available online, and that it's far more up-to-date than by the time I grab my soggy copy from the porch. But there's something I like about the layout, crunching the pages back, getting inky from news that's literally at my fingertips. Plus, I feel the need to keep a few fellow old-school journalists employed.

Books, for some reason, are a different story — I'm not able to turn the pages. I'm on page 123 of my hardback copy of Telegraph Avenue. (For those keeping score, I've read 66 pages on the Kindle, 55 pages in book form.) I'd like to blame all the digital distractions, but there aren't any. I'm simply a slow reader, easily sidetracked by hunger, sleep, and my own monkey mind. Perhaps I should try books on tape.

By the time I hit the Bob Dylan concert Saturday night, I'm a million miles from my overly stimulated, Techno-Gorging self. I no longer grab for my phantom phone or feel the need to check in with anyone other than the person I'm with. The show is pleasantly low-tech. There are no giant projection screens or psychedelic lights, and, unlike at the Ben Howard gig the week before, only a smattering of folks are shooting video. Instead of wanting to take a piece of Mr. Tambourine Man and post him on the Web, most of us are there to connect his live renditions with memories of the past.

Midway through Dylan's set, I see a guy in front of me writing out a set list. I ask him the name of the previous song, a bluesy ballad I'd never heard. "That was 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,' " Hairy Garcia replies. "You can check 'em later — I post all Bob's set lists at Boblinks.com." The times, they are a-changin'.

I'm not staying blacked out. I'll keep a game of Words With Friends going, if only to stave off dementia, and I'll post some pics and links if I have a major accomplishment (Oscar), announcement (baby), or plea (bail money). But I won't be "liking" the photo of your dog in a Santa hat, I won't be posting "Happy Birthday!" on your wall (if you're a real friend, you'll get flowers), and I won't poke you unless we're lovers, in which case our relationship status should be obvious. I won't invite you into my Circle or Stream unless we've met in person, and I won't follow you unless you're a mentor or someone ahead of me on the trail. I'm not checking in, unless it's to rehab, in which case I'm hoping you'll see it on TMZ. I'm done Digging and Pinning and Yelping and Blogging and Tagging and Stumbling. If I'm going to be "part of the conversation," it'll be from across the table. I'll still be linked in, but to my life, not my network. And my Klout score will definitely fall, but so will my blood pressure.

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7 comments
chrisanonymous
chrisanonymous

TL;DR 
OP is getting old and starts to hate on new technology.
Goes on a quest to reaffirm his POV.
Quotes Shakespeare at the end to complete ultimate cliché.

loosecannonsbluesban
loosecannonsbluesban

The possibility of a solar eruption from the Sun which hits the earth is a VERY real possibility.  A solar eruption recently occured that, had the trajectory of it been towards the earth, would have wiped out all electrical connectivity world wide, maybe even wiping a large portion of our atmosphere away!  So, we would truly have an apocolypse.  We are not prepareing for this and we really should.  Buildings should be built Hobbit style, underground with HVAC systems designed to produce water and oxygen and food in the interior.  We're like rats that when faced with certain death will busy themselves with non-important things, even knowing that the danger of dying is clear and present. 

Ted House
Ted House

I still don't have any type of smart phone, and i get by just fine thanks. No need to pay for internet on the go.

Joe Rollins
Joe Rollins

Get lost. Be less addicted to FB/Twitter.

ckrescho
ckrescho

What is the deal with that photo?

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

 @ckrescho 

 

Yeah that photo is more than a little creepy

 
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