Technology is not Culture

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In the airline seat I grow restless. I watch as the teenager next to me purchases wifi to rip through Instagram, and then Snapchat. He moves faster than I could ever consume the information. When I was younger, and people would talk about their disgust for technology, it always revolved around the speed of things: shortening attention spans, more information, less human interaction. That’s how the fear of technology was explained to me.

I always thought I would be fine, that the fear wouldn’t find me, because even if I couldn’t keep up to date, I believed that I could empathize with the desire to move faster. But as I watch him, I realize that it’s not the speed at which the photos and videos fly across the screen that weighs me down, but the sheer inanity of the content: in every one it’s a picture some has taken of themselves, or a video they’ve taken of themselves. I can’t hear what they’re saying, which usually gives me solace, but in this case strips out any of the distractions. It’s one endless stream of selfies, monologues, dancing, singing, staring at food, drinking water, faces framed in landscape, cameras being passed from duck face to pouting face, and blank stares. It’s overwhelmingly repulsive, and I realize it’s not the technology that people struggle with, but the reconciliation of a culture that leaves them feeling empty and severed. And then the sadness sets in when you realize that the culture didn’t change, you did. You could have consumed this five years ago, but now it’s at best a curiosity, and at worst a terror. Culture doesn’t change, you do.

And yet technology is not culture. But it is the most effective mechanism of delivery. And in that effectiveness lives the fear, because it accelerates the alienation. And so what do I do with my repulsion? I get out my notebook, and write about myself, the biggest hypocrite of them all.

Closing Doors

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It’s raining, but pulsating with light, when I wake up. I walk towards the glow of the window, and look out across the patio, and into a courtyard that seems slapdash and tight. The buildings surrounding me are all about the same height, and all I can see rising above the skyline are the cranes of new construction.

As I wake, I realize I’ve never seen San Francisco in the daytime. I’m embarrassed of the fact, given the industry I’m in, and my love of film noir. I need to find a map to get my bearings, as the hills and the flat height of the construction, make it impossible to find any landmark from the apartment.

I haven’t been here before because it doesn’t fit my endless travel trajectories, and as a result my corresponding life. I go East now: Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Amsterdam, Germany, not West. The next ten years, at least, will be an exercise in moving further and further East. I want that to happen, because I want to be closer to my daughter. However, I like it here. Not just San Fran, but the entire Northwest: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver.

I know what it’s like for a closing door to feel like a gift, but it doesn’t in this instance. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to spend more time in these places, or maybe it’s a more base sadness that the opportunity has been pulled from the table. I don’t know if I could have made a life here, but I have the feeling that I could have been content for years.

Yet that limitation is a small price to pay, and one I give willingly, to have something so meaningful as a life with my daughter.