Minutes after sharing a bright hello with a smiling ticket taker then quickly clearing the cash line at the Throgs Neck Bridge, I heard some guy on the radio explaining how silly people like me are. You know, the folks who don’t have E-Z Pass. OK, he didn’t put it exactly like that nor did he mention dinosaurs or flat-earthers but you get the idea. Worse yet, my fave-radio-host-especially-during-a-natural-disaster, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, seemed to agree with his guest, City College’s Robert Paaswell, who basically said (and I paraphrase), you’re already being tracked, get over it.
How Silicon Valley of them!
Now it’s true that if you drive a car with GPS (which I do) or always carry a cell phone (which I don’t), you can be digitally followed pretty easily. (Oh, and don’t forget credit cards, security cameras and nosy bloggers.) But when you’re not in the car or if you’re not constantly on the grid, heck, you can almost kinda live like humanity lived up until 2000 CE.*
Wow! Was that really only twelve years ago?!
Just to put it into perspective, kids, for most of the 90’s people didn’t:
Sleep with cell phones
We didn’t have:
3D versions of movies that were fine in 2D
We did have:
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of mindless cat videos and have wasted more life on screens than I spent in L.A. traffic (which really says something!) but, heck, I’d take less advertiser data collection and a grande cup of downtime over “social” media any day!
To a techno-flexitarian like me, the choice *not* to get E-Z pass came down to two things: 1) I’d only use it a couple of times a year and 2) it’s a matter of principle. And the principle is not (only) about privacy, it’s about convenience. I’m against it.
To me, convenience is the hobgoblin of modern minds. Starting with the fact that not everything touted as convenient turns out to be so but also thinking about all that’s been sold as “easy!” and what that really means. “Convenient” food = unhealthy people. “Convenient” machines (including cars) = less exercise/more pollution. “Convenient” shopping = easier ways to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. Hey, sign me up!
And yet, we keep yearning for the Big Easy-Peasy. (Convenience may be an even bigger god now than savings!***) I don’t get it. If we don’t have time to eat right, sleep deep, exercise more, raise a duck (OK, I added that one)— why? How did we let our world get this outta whack? And if the problem is that complex, isn’t convenience just a workaround that leaves more trouble in its wake? Yes, we need solutions to our perpetual time shortage but the treadmill itself may be the real issue. Have we maybe just reached the evolutionary limits of what are minds and bodies can handle? Why do we always need to go faster, get more, do too much–usually all at the same time?
As I watched my spouse attempt to brush his teeth while also scrolling on a BlackBerry, I mused about what we’re doing with the supposed savings from these multitasked moments. Are we scraping together seconds to watch more minutes on Hulu? Deleting more spam? Watching (even) more sports on any available platform? Is this what homo sapiens has evolved for???!!!
I wonder what Darwin would tweet?
*Don’t worry, you can still have pain-free dental care and massage chairs!
**See, it wasn’t totally Cro-Magnon!!!
***Which, in the land of Walmart, is super-saying something.
“I Know Who You Are And I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy”; Lori Andrews; 2011; Free Press; New York, NY.
“Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities”; Howard Frumkin, Lawrence Frank, Richard Jackson; 2004; Island Press; Washington, DC.
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes