What’s Your Beef?

A curmudgeon speaks

Fritz Shallah

Let me be the first to admit my aversion to technology. I remember when inventive technology meant color television and computers the size of warehouses. I struggle to adapt to a world where Dick Tracy’s futuristic wrist watch is not just a reality, but in some ways outmoded. I don’t fear technology. For me there’s a philosophical issue at hand. While our plunge into a “FaceBook, email, text and tweet me” culture is cool and convenient it comes with a cost to it that I am hesitant to pay.

The Montana I grew up in reflected a culture from another era. Our sense of community was rooted in the isolated, hardscrabble existence of cowboys and pioneers. Self reliance and independence were tempered by an understanding that connection with our neighbors was more than social convention. It often was a means of survival.

Leaving a light or a candle in the window provided a beacon in the night for lost or weary travelers. Barn and house raisings, round ups, and harvest parties gave opportunity for folks to socialize as well as sharing labor to accomplish the tasks needed to put food on tables and shelter over the heads of families and their stock. Stopping at the neighbor’s to howdy meant catching up on news and gossip as well as rendering a hand when someone was sick, in need, or just plain lonely. The Golden Rule was the primary basis of the Code of The West, a common bond even for folks who didn’t particularly like each other.

Without line of sight reception, in the days before cable television and satellite dishes, many of my Saturday nights were spent gathered around the radio listening, with my family, to the Lone Ranger on KXXL. Without Facebook and Twitter, social networking came via our party line (telephone, not politics). Privacy screening meant asking Mrs. Hoyle to hang up so I could speak alone with my gal. Phone conversations, and letters written in complete sentences served in lieu of e-mails, tweets and texts. Life at a slower pace, with fewer conveniences, reinforced interpersonal relationships.

Recently, at a local restaurant, Rose and I were seated next to a family of four. While we dined and conversed, the only sounds from our adjacent companions were the beeps and whistles from their devices. Throughout their meal they sat, faces bathed in the light of their individual screens, saying not a word to one another. For all I know they were texting each other the entire time! Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me we’ve lost much when such an occurrence is barely noteworthy.

We live in a world today where neighbors barely know one another, if at all. With Facebook “friends” numbering in the hundreds we’ve lost our sense of depth in the word “community”. Assaulted by instant messaging, instant news, and instant demands for our attention we’ve replaced “face to face” with Face Time. Family time is less communal as we share our time Skyping and gaming rather than conversing and engaging.

I’m not anti-progressive. I’m old school. I’ll write you a letter, engage you in a lengthy conversation, visit you long before I’ll rely on email or texts. I value time with you. I know you’re in a hurry; it seems the whole world is. But, relationships, community, real connections are not formed in 150 characters or less. I’m not fussin’.  I’m just sayin’.

BTY, ur bff, I (insert emoticon) u  @ #WTF?  LOL  :)

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