A fine site

Facebook and such

I freely admit being a Luddite. Much to my father’s disappointment I possessed absolutely no technological acumen, no understanding of how things fit or should work. My 5 year old grandson comprehends Legos much better than I ever could- not to mention the internet. I guess it’s that part of my brain that owns weaker synapses and prefers the flash of colour to the driving pursuit and ability of putting things together and making them actually perform. I belong to the observer set, the passive enjoyers, not the active engagers. That’s just me.

Day long sessions at computer schools were wasted on me. I most often lost one thread of sequencing and was set adrift on the wild seas of information.I was thrown back on the pile of self-incrimination and embarrassment, clutching for a familiar word to ease me back to port and complete the action. Others seemed safely involved in their lifeboats, continually and competently dipping their oars towards the targeted goal. I would smile vaguely, pretend I was yawning, resting, whatever, just wanting desperately to get out of the so-called learning situation where all I knew was that I was incompetent.

The wisest tutorial came from a co-worker at OCT who demonstrated one single function of the computer and then disappeared. Thus I learned, used, and made the function my own.

Years later, others confided they had taken those beginner computer courses several times : Ah, how wise, particularly when the company is footing the bill.

Similarly even when I was attempting to learn to crochet, I overheard class participants also explain this was not their first kick at the can. I should have figured it out earlier because as a believer in Multiple Intelligences, I do know that we all learn in diverse ways and one instructor or teacher may or may not enlighten us in a way that makes sense to our variously- strung brains,others only reinforcing our foibles and being unable to throw us a life preserver.

In a nutshell, I’m no fan of computers. I don’t find them helpful or fun or intriguing. In fact I am infuriated by their correction of my spelling that I do not want corrected as in names that are close to nouns. As well, I fear pushing the wrong button and either losing my work or signing up for offers that will cost me a small fortune. I’m aware of “cookies” collecting data on me to be sold and meant to manipulate my daily life. Yuck.

So it will come as no surprise that I had resisted enrolling on Facebook’s site. However when number #2 daughter wanted me to vote for my gorgeous grandbaby, I had to belong to the Facebook crowd. So reluctantly I joined. I voted often, but the link on Gerber baby foods only circled round and round to bring me back to my “homepage”. And now I am stuck. Without even one vote for the most beautific child in the world. So much for Facebook.

It is a phenomenon of the times. Email replaces letter writing and phone calls and puts up for examination small bits of conversation for other Facebook joiners. I am wary of all the participants who live on or in Icloud or inhabit evanescent spaces. Some grownups embarassingly using baby pictures to indicate who they are.

There are so-called “ friends” who post “ selfies” of themselves continuously as if their incremental portrait changes reveal something new about them. Some post pictures of ads or things they find interesting and await others to comment. There is quite a bit about diets and friends of friends. Why would anyone tell you that they have visited store X three times that week or won a scrabble challenge or visited their sister in New York? Like really, does anyone really care? Apparently so!

Perhaps Facebook will eventually replace newspapers that are said to be dying. Although I cannot imagine a Saturday morning without a cup of coffee, perusing the paper by my window in my sunny kitchen. Recently in The Globe an article on Carl Klaus, a 19th century Viennese critic, decried journalists because of the spin they put on the reporting of events that removed any chance of viewing it through one’s own imagination, and fresh eyes. He was referring to the manipulation of the press. Rather, the author of the article suggested- technology provides more opportunities for diverse perspectives by individuals -as in Facebook to comment.

I think there is always a bias. Anyone who has taught English or even read a book knows a first person narrator is unreliable and even the omniscient voice moving like an angel gathering a multiplicity of views exudes a point of view in spite of pretending equanimity – written ironically from the perspective of one author who imagines what it must be like to be many, not just one voice.

When I taught Post-colonial Literature, I purposely engineered a discussion between two students to whom I deliberately assigned arguments that went totally against their loudly proclaimed personal views in class: the die hard conservative and the bleeding heart liberal on human rights issues. Apologizing first, one pleaded “Miss, I really don’t believe in this stance, however…” . Each debater was required to walk in the other’s shoes a la To Kill a Mockingbird. Even if the forceful interchange lasted only ten or so minutes, each had experienced a new way of thinking about an issue.Were they changed? Likely not, but perhaps some new angle or perplexity had permeated their thinking to encourage possibilities .

Besides locating a certain community with apparent friends whose faces, not pictures, we might better respond to with a laugh, wink or touch, Facebook provides a static interchange that does not really flow as good conversations should. It puts out random thoughts and expects quick responses. Sound bites with stunted communication. I really don’t get it. But then I belong to the Boomer generation that grew up and old before computers.

And although I am a worrier- that has nothing to do with computers, the Christmas storm showed us that everything that runs on power SUCH AS COMPUTERS can be wiped out. And if you do your banking on line, list valuable information such as phone numbers or email addresses, and your computer receives a bug, mysteriously goes off line, inextricably has not been updated or your system has been hacked, you may find you have lost valuable information, not to mention your identity. Not being able to vote on Gerber is small potatoes.

A recent documentary, “Goggle and the World Brain “ by Ben Lewis explained how Goggle was saving for our use all the books in existence, touted as “ The most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet”. Although Google maintained they were building a library for mankind, it’s easy to imagine their purposes were not as forthright as it appeared on the surface. What if, an interviewer queried “Google wanted to sell the information in those books, that was compiled from 2002-2005 more than 10 million books? “

Big surprise that copyright laws by authors and permission to scan was overlooked or even “forgotten” by the esteemed Oxford –Bodleian and Harvard libraries. Only the skepticism and chagrin of a French librarian who did not believe that Goggle was being totally altruistic instigated a law challenge to stop the compilation. The end result yielded a mere $60 per author per copyright stipend.

What we would like to believe is good often is underpinned by less than honorable intentions and although sometimes good things come from the bad, thanks Donna Tartt, I have my druthers.

Still one must reluctantly move with the times, even if it means using technology.I guess I can use it to shop!


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