Just when I’ve reached maximum smugness in my quest to be the stodgiest, crankiest, post-luddite resister to technology, a bunch of college administrators have gone and made me look like a card-carrying member of the electronic cognoscenti–a real live, glowing tech wienie. Go figure.
To be clear: I loathe our society’s fetish for new technology and the cult of planned obsolescence that drives it. I have a dumb phone, not a smart phone–it supposedly takes photos as well as receives phone calls (when I happen to turn it on, which is rarely), but I couldn’t tell you how. It costs me $84 a year via tracfone–$20 plus tax every 3 months for 60 minutes plus 60 bonus minutes, and I’ve saved up thousands of minutes. I keep the phone in my truck, so I always know where it is–but I won’t answer if I’m driving. Clever, right?
Windows 8 makes me angry. Really angry. Throw glasses and kick the cat angry. I don’t use my daughter’s laptop because it unnerves her when I shout and curse at inanimate objects, but it’s the idea of the thing as well as that incomprehensible, alien interface. Some geeks locked in a climate-controlled cell in Redmond, Washington decided that it was time to take a perfectly good, largely intuitive system and declare it outdated. Why? Because they can. Because you’ll buy it. Because some of you rushed to buy it the minute it came out–blasted early adopters, you’re the worst of the worst.
The difference between the tech addicts and lemmings is that lemmings rush over cliffs in a harried state of semi-consciousness, the result of some strange biological imperative related to a delicate sense of the world around them. The tech-crazed, while they may be semi-conscious due to obsession with their tiny wittle eensy weensy touchscreens, throw themselves happily on the jagged rocks below, having willingly paid for the chance to do so. Indeed, they look forward to it.
I was appalled when, just days ago, a good friend of mine proposed that computer coding be added to our school district’s curriculum, as advocated by some group of geeks somewhere–I followed the links, read some arguments, and shook my head: not my thing. Should broader tech ed be available at young ages? Absolutely–but foisting that agenda on all students is a lot like making the argument that everyone who drives, or will drive, an automobile should take 12 years of design and engineering classes. But, that’s me–I don’t need to teach my computer to do things I don’t need it to do. It’s purpose is to serve and entertain, equal parts herald, messenger, librarian and jester.
It should be shocking to you, then, that I’ve been appalled by the story that a handful of colleges and universities have banned the utterly obnoxious ritual of “selfies” at their graduations. First among these was Bryant University–that’s right, Bryant is in the news again! It is little wonder that the administration of Bryant is banning this vanity–they are constantly on the tongues of mainstream America, an assault on our senses unprecedented in our time–Bryant! Bryant! Bryant! They must be fearful–understandably–that they’ve reached the saturation point of cultural and media exposure. We’re all sick of Bryant–if we hear ONE MORE THING about Bryant! Argggghhhh.
Or not–because, let’s be honest: this is the first and last you have or will have heard about Bryant.
Since this (non)story broke weeks ago, administrators at Bryant and South Florida University (are these places real?) have back-tracked a bit, explaining that the ban was merely to help speed along ceremonies and preserve a sense of decorum, but I’ve been unable to find a withdrawal of the threat withhold diplomas from violators, nor have I found any references to students actually facing punitive measures for violating the bans, so the point is pretty much moot.
It’s an interesting situation to consider, however, and a curious position in which I find myself in commenting upon it–no matter how derisive I feel about our cultural obsession with trendy tech, I’m far more enraged by accounts of arbitrary authoritarianism. I don’t consider myself particularly rebellious, but there is nothing worse–in a regular, day to day life–than penny-ante autocrats exerting their limited powers because they can. Threaten to withhold a diploma at the bitter end of a student’s 4 or more year slog through academia? That’s on par with the Deli lady at the old A & P store near where I grew up, who forced you to take a number even when you were the only person in the store.