Kathleen’s Musings: Turkeys and Times a-Changin’

This guy lives in my backyard. I always like to start with a photo, and Romeo (as my granddaughters call him) has little to do with the topic, but he’s been yakking at me a lot lately, so I snapped his picture through the window. He’s huge. He has a bevvy of ladies out there–hence his name–and we think he was actually hatched in our little woods, which have been always home to all kinds of wildlife, but the turkeys have only been around for a couple of years. We’ve left our backyard alone pretty much because we’re flanked by bits of undeveloped parkland on both sides, so we just go with it. Anyway, I give you Romeo.

An editorial in Wednesday’s Mpls Star Tribune spoke to one of my recurring sources of guilt. I’m not particularly a guilt wallower except when I start getting this niggling feeling that the world is passing me by in a way that I really ought to care about. You know, for the sake of my career. Generally, it has to do with technology.

The editorial’s headline: “OMG: It’s time to write a headline.” It’s about the effects of technology on our brains and our lives, and the writer cleverly flips back and forth between his message and incoming messages. “The implications are worrisome because…hold that thought…We’re getting an e-mail about…” And I cringe just reading this because I know this happens to me. I’m in the room with a real human being, and only half my brain is engaged. The other half is parceled out among my gadgets–TV, computer, cell phone. I’m pretty sure my brain doesn’t function well that way. And I’m only straddling a couple of bandwagons. I don’t text. I don’t tweet, twitter, whatever. I’m not on Facebook. (I’ve heard that My Space is already “so yesterday,” so that’s one I’ll stop feeling guilty about.) But I keep hearing that today’s conscientious businesswoman must get with the programs or else.

The editorial refers to Marshall McLuhan’s claim (46 years ag0!) that technology was beginning to overtake content, and he was talking mainly about TV. His book is often mis-referenced as The Medium Is the Message. The Strib neglected to point out that the actual title of the book is The Medium Is the Massage. It was assigned reading when I was in high school, and I remember the discussion of the title and the message/massage pun. Worth thinking about, especially now that we’re inundated with new gadgets. It’s impossible to keep up, and I’m beginning to wonder why we try. Are we addicted to the massage?

According to the NYT (referenced by the Strib) “we have tripled our information intake over the last 50 years, but no one thinks we’re three times smarter.”

I think part of the problem is that people have become lazy about evaluating information and seriously considering the message, but that’s probably a topic for another day. I’m concerned about our willingness to consider the value of the medium. Are people who send and receive amazing volumes of text messages daily missing something besides spelling and punctuation?

Seriously, am I missing something? Am I becoming the fuddy-duddy I rolled my baby blues about back in the day? Or are we–and this is my fear–losing something in terms of personal human touch, not to mention the human intelligence department?

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About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
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9 Responses to Kathleen’s Musings: Turkeys and Times a-Changin’

  1. Love Romeo!I'm not sure we're losing the human touch with our technology since it allows us to communicate with far flung people…our readers (hello, Emmanuelle in France!) and reconnect with old friends (hello, San Carlos High!). But I would agree that I use email/Facebook/Twitter/google as ways out of perplexing plot problems or just to procrastinate.In another era would I have swept the floor or baked bread in order to turn from the perplexing plot problem that I was trying to solve via manual typewriter or pen on page?

  2. Michele Hauf says:

    Great post, Kathy!I believe the media overload is because of our quest 'to belong', to be a part of something. Seriously. And yet, it only pushes us farther away from everyone. It makes me sad when I see news reports or see reality shows that feature a family sitting in a room, each concentrating on their own electronic devices, and not having a conversation. Nowadays 'texting' is the conversational vehicle. I admit I've even texted my son (up in his room) or phoned the hubby (out in the backyard) to tell them to come eat dinner. Sigh…

  3. Sticking your head out the door and yelling "Come and get it before I throw it out!" does seem more personal, doesn't it? What do you text, Michele? Eat B4 I delete?

  4. Helen Brenna says:

    I think only time will tell, Kathy. 2 sides to every coin. Taking personal responsibility for how technology changes us is key, though, I think.

  5. I caught a snippet recently about a study showing that while parents think they're spending time with kids, they're often "plugged in" the whole time (ha! That calls up more than one image in my silly mind) and kids are more aware of it that parents realize. They called it "shared attention," and they say it's not the same as doing something mindless like folding clothes while you're spending time with the kids. Your mind is really on the Blackberry. And now the gadget itself can multitask, so you might be doing a technological 3-way with your kid as a by-stander. So to speak. (I'm paraphrasing, but, hey, it's an otherwise geeky MIT study.)

  6. Michele Hauf says:

    Eat b4 I delete. Love it! I do enforce the no phones/texting at dinner table rule. And if a kid even dares to text while I'm trying to converse with him/her they get the evil eye (that includes the hubby, who has learned his lesson). 🙂

  7. krisgils33 says:

    It has overtaken the population and become so socially acceptable so quickly, it is amazing. I personally don't enjoy overhearing people's cell phone conversations, but also find myself checking emails or texts while supposedly engaged in some other social activity (such as lunch with friends). Once you get hooked into all the gadgetry, it becomes an addiction. Maybe someday there will be a 12-step program. "Hi, my name is Kris, and I'm addicted to checking my emails every nano-second."

  8. Cindy Gerard says:

    I worry about the same thing Kathleen. As Christie said, technology does help us keep in touch and I love that aspect of it but I also feel the flip side is that it can also be isolating in that for some people their world revolves around their text and e-mail and negates the need for face to face human contact. it's the proverbial 2 sided coin and I truly don't know whether to beware of what it means long term.

  9. Kris, you've hit at least one of the nails in this equation on the head. The Times reports that the bursts of digital info in our lives actually satisfy a primitive need to assess threat or opportunity quickly, which is stimulating and really does become addictive. So that buzz or beep is like hearing a sound coming from outside the cave, and the adrenaline kicks in. Does this message require fight or flight? It's not about staying in touch. Face to face and voice to voice, even handwriting to handwriting is more the kind of human contact I think Cindy's talking about. It could be more about some part of us that misses living on the edge. Interesting theory.

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