THE BLOG

Nostalgia Nouveau: Tech on Top of Tech

02/12/2015 05:04 pm ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015

Technology transports us, literally and figuratively. As time moves forward, tech morphs and takes us with it -- handing us time and again mixed bags of everyday altering accouterments and circumstance. It's the human curse of inventiveness, isn't it, to take everything we construct to some point of destruction. Such funny creatures are we, eh Carl? So I reminisce, 21st century style, on the tech that was...

I remember ye olde... anonymous chat threads: when this venerable entity, Huffington Post, reigned supreme, pre its AOL buyout and subsequent Facebook takeover. Back in the heyday of anonymity, hundreds of thousands of online posters with their clever (and revealing) monikers self-policed (with surprising reasonable success) miles-long, animated chat threads. Those with oodles of time to kill invented dynamic avatars and built kingdoms of fellow quippers, thanks to an all-u-can-click pavlovian badge system and nearly infinite conversational opportunities. Free-minutes stealing others could touch, if but for a moment, a kindred spirit via some mutually agreed upon comment. The realm of online chat was saturated for a time with the gut-cleansing, unfiltered thoughts of the many in an activity that will no doubt stump sociologists for decades to come:

Is truth cloaked in anonymity the most honest exposing of all underbellies, or does anonymity simply lean into the realm of no consequence, knee-jerk aggression?

Back in the day of pre live-feed cell phone addiction: Before the live and mostly mindless feeds were created that with their non-stop functionality took over every waking hour of the even most marginally tech-savvy, lonely human out there. People used to look at one another when in each other's presence. They used to speak with each other. Dates actually had to entertain each other across the table. Caregivers, parents to babysitters, interacted with their children. These days, thanks to social media (and the low-hanging tech fruit that are all those addictive, mindless, non-skill-building games), it is both child and worse yet the caregivers who are plugged in to ceaseless threads and tuned out to whom and that which immediately surrounds them.

Millions of memories of moments together will now never be forged. Billions have been lost already.

Pre live-feed social media, phone calls coming and going 24/7 that cut into time with those present were their own Pandora's box, the taking of those calls and assertion against them the relationship deal breakers or milestones of their time. "Back when," in this case was a question of when to take or not to take that call, by comparison a simple thing.

I remember when... before social media redefined the word "Friend," relationships were founded on effort-based, personal interaction and not tallied via click upon click, which clicking now infiltrates the most intimate dinner out, the most special family get-together. "Friending" took the task of making a friend -- which included listening and sharing in some mutual and balanced fashion -- and reduced it to the billboarding of self, which leaves me asking:

Who is left to listen?

I've been musing recently on tech's evil cousin, personal branding. For anyone who has recently attended any gathering and left feeling they were pitched all night, rather than a participant in some back and forth discourse borne of mutual, topical interest or mutually shared interest in each other will know what I mean. What used to be construed as the making of friends, the real-life/real-time connecting of individuals, morphed first into a click tally, which in turn fostered the explosion of media-reliant life journeys that require the ongoing, one-sided broadcasting of self as pre-fab product.

Then I look back on those Good Ole Days when the tech reliance that has been automobile travel was accomplished pre on-board TV/movie viewing. If reserved for arduous, long road trips, measured doses of media viewing can be a helpful parental tool. But I see drivers facilitating this lowbrow hypnosis for their young passengers no matter how short the stretch in the car. I see screens aglow on city streets, in parking lots and at gas stations, where lil bitty couch potatoes are being trained for future years of stagnant, passive consumption of repetitively delivered mass entertainment.

Don't kids watch enough at home?

The screen-glued little ones will never know of vistas, cityscapes, countrysides, sunrises or sunsets. Conversations with fellow passengers (i.e. family), word or sign reading games or awareness that could enhance all those accumulated hours on the road will never have even been attempted. This is consistent with the EZ Appeasement Parenting trends of today, where mini princes and princesses are placated at all cost in homes in which junior rules the roost, to the detriment of both parent and child.

Speaking of entertainment, I remember when our media-based entertainment world was peopled pre "reality" celebrities: In this marginally meritorious society of ours, there was once some semblance of a reward system in which talent (as in something special a person could actually do or undertake) was required in some measure. Today, with a media industry desperate to fill at lowest possible cost the countless 24/7 slots that exist in particular within the internet's infinite universe, any semblance of quality has given way to sensationalistic attention grabbing of the Utterly Ordinary. It's ripe fodder for pop sociologists, isn't it? I recently touched on what I think is the ultimate in attention-grabbing phenomena on "reality" TV, the Crystal Fishbowl Effect, which strikes me as more true the longer I watch, for it appears that:

There is no limit to which one can and will go for attention.

Which brings me to a re-worked definition of a word heretofore used in reference to viruses overtaking computers. I enjoy word-smithing and propose the term 'viralized' as such:

Viralization -- (1) support gained via social media of any shared word/image & deed carried out with the express intention of its going viral, in which the gaining of fame/notoriety overrides or supersedes the deed or action itself as founding impetus.
(2) fame/notoriety/major media acknowledgement based on the sole criteria of accumulated high numbers of social media facilitated quick clicks as determined by the lowest human attention quotient, tech addicted masses with the most idle time on their hands.

Is this insight or just age? Every generation goes through its own "back when" reminiscences. Not liking the new can indeed create some aspect of "old." But the before and afters I have lived through allow me to look both from the inside as one who relies very much on tech and embraces it and from the outside and as one who can remember the moving, shaking and changing the world pre-tech. Though I am not entirely sure, I think it is a good perspective. So I ask:

In the gaining, what are we giving up?