Friday, August 21, 2009

Post-Internet Society?

Reflecting further on recent technology/life interactions, the concept of a future post-internet society occurs to me.

Basically, I think--I hope--we (as a society) will sooner or later get over our current infatuation with Everything Internet/Wireless/I-Whatever, and we'll start rediscovering reality--not "reality TV" (talk about an oxymoron!), but the real reality right on the other side of our skin/eyeballs/eardrums/etc.

And I'll already be here, patiently (or not) waiting.

I can't find where I've written out this story before, so I'll write it out here. It's a very important story.

A young boy, perhaps kindergarten or first grade, visited the farm for the first time. Early in his visit, he noticed that there was no TV in the livingroom, and commented on it. What did we do without television, he wondered out loud.

We adults kind of brushed him off and continued on the tour with him tagging along.

As the end of their visit drew near, and we were all standing in the driveway for goodbyes, the little boy piped up with great certainty. "I get it now. You don't NEED TV! You have the cat channel, the chicken channel, the sheep channel...."

And we do. We have it all, in real time, complete in all 5 senses and maybe a few that science hasn't named yet.

We (me, dogs, cat, sheep, etc.) don't miss TV. Ever. Nor Facebook nor Twitter nor an imaginary farm. We DO miss our old friends (and potential new ones) who have disappeared into those virtual realities, and who have lost the ability to hold a conversation about REAL reality.

But I'm almost certain that sometimes those with TVs, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, a virtual farm, etc., have an inkling that they miss real chickens, real sheep, real gardens, real friends. Even real bugs, real weather, real work.

There lie the seeds of post-internet society. I want to water them, help them germinate, weed them, rejoice in their growth.

We (as a society) will find a balance, I hope--not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Cell phones are great for emergencies, email is great for keeping in touch with friends on conflicting schedules, many web sites certainly provide useful information.

And I DO see it coming, I see seeds sprouting. I see it coming in the renaissance of knitting. I see it in the second wave of environmentalism (took long enough...I grew up in the first wave) and the new energy awareness. I see it in the Slow Food Movement, Locavores, the upsurge in home gardening.

Meanwhile, though, is there some way that those of us who've opted out of the personal technology arms race can connect and start practicing for that wonderful real future? Support one another in our sidelined state as the heydey of personal devices and online social networking rolls relentlessly on, not yet at its climax? How can we roll out the red carpet for those who begin to want more than the glowing screen has to offer?

Should we figure out a Technology 12-Step group to support those who realize their electronic connections have reached the level of addiction?

On the local National Public Radio station a few weeks ago, I heard a blurb about Therapeutic Lifestyle as a treatment for depression. Research showed that living a more traditional life such as the Amish or some equatorial tribe actually treated chronic depression better than conventional medication or therapy. Some of the components of this Therapeutic Lifestyle were rising and going to bed with the sun, meaningful physical work outside, a simple diet of local foods. Makes sense to me. When I wasn't working off-farm, and could actually live the lifestyle the farm wants me to, my own mild long-term depression certainly abated. Especially, I realized right from the start that having to go out and do sheep chores and deal with firewood daily in the winter kept me (mostly) cheerful and up-beat right through the winter--usually a tough time for me.

Maybe the farm can be a treatment center for recovering technology addicts, and a haven for those wise ones who have stayed off the bandwagon to begin with, at least in part.

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