Used within reasonable limits, of course, these devices also offer us new graces. But we are not using them within reasonable limits. They are the masters; we are not. They are built to addict us, as the social psychologist Adam Alter’s new book “Irresistible” points out — and to madden us, distract us, arouse us and deceive us. We primp and perform for them as for a lover; we surrender our privacy to their demands; we wait on tenterhooks for every “like.” The smartphone is in the saddle, and it rides mankind.
Which is why we need a social and political movement — digital temperance, if you will — to take back some control.
I know, I know…how else could you be reading this, except on a device?
So, of course, I want you here and I want your attention (hey, over here!) and I want you to keep coming back for more.
But I agree with him that life spent only attached to a screen is a miserable existence:
American car accident rates are much higher now than a few years ago, due to drivers texting while behind the wheel.
People walk into the street, into objects and into other human beings because they refuse to pay attention to where they are in the real world, aka meatspace.
For all the connection it brings, staying tech-tethered also distances us from the people and experiences all around us.
It may be a sign of my generation, or my friends, but when I’m with someone in a social setting, like dinner or coffee or just a chat, we aren’t looking at our phones.
On a recent week’s vacation, breaking my normal routines, I stayed off my phone and computer — and took photos, read books and magazines (on paper), ate, slept, shopped, walked, exercised, talked to friends.
Do I care if everyone else “likes” my life?
If I like it, I’m fine.
Do you take technology sabbaths and turn off or put away all your digital devices?
The Internet has done amazing, wonderful, stupendous things for
connecting the world, promoting freedom and diversity, enabling distance
learning and online friendships, and establishing whole new worlds of
commerce, but there is a dark side to it that is really starting to
bother me. All of this interconnectedness has created a meanness in us,
or maybe it has simply revealed a mean spirit that was there all along,
but I wish it would go away. Even kind, loving people I know are
susceptible to it, and my hope is that this post will get folks to
reconsider before hitting return.
I’m talking about the Mean Photo. You know, the snapshot of someone
grocery shopping, or going to the prom, or on the subway who probably
thinks she looks perfectly okay, but some stranger (or worse, a friend)
takes a picture and posts it on the Internet for the rest of us to share
and “like” and write snide, superior comments.
If I see one more picture with the caption, “Oh. Dear. God!” I may just lose it.
That is a human being in that picture. A person who got up that day,
got dressed and left the house without ever thinking it would make her
the subject of public ridicule, simply because her shorts are too tight.
Maybe she’s gained a lot of weight recently due to a medical condition
and can’t afford new clothes, or doesn’t want to buy things in a size
she intends to reduce. Maybe it’s a single mom who had to choose
between doing the laundry and going to her son’s baseball game, so here
she is, cheering him on, making the better choice, even though this
outfit is all she had to put on.
I’ve never seen a site like this that mocks people, nor do any of my 600+ Facebook friends indulge in this special brand of nastiness, (at least on that site), so this was news to me.
But — seriously?
As someone who was bullied for three years in high school, I have zero tolerance for this sort of shit.
Bullying, in any form, makes me insane. It’s cheap, crude, pathetic behavior on the part of people who have some sick need to project their toxic insecurities and judgement onto others.
Here’s a wild idea. It’s easy to remember because it’s the first three letters of the alphabet: ABC.
Always Be Compassionate.
I get it…we all have lousy days. We all have times that our lizard brain kicks in and starts spewing. We’re not saints and some of us have no desire to be one, either.
But, a default position that others are struggling (too) is probably a safe choice, because:
You have no idea what someone else is facing, emotionally, financially, intellectually, physically.
You have no idea why someone’s hair needs a cut or their shoes are scuffed and filthy or their kids aren’t wearing designer clothes like yours do.
You have no idea why they’re driving a crappy, banged-up old car or don’t have a car at all.
You have no idea why someone is 30 or 50 or 100 pounds overweight.
Like the man in my building who was trim and handsome for years — and now has such big jowls I didn’t recognize him when I saw him the other day.
He isn’t eating donuts or being a lazy slob stuck to the sofa.
He has a brain tumor, and a brave wife and a gorgeous little white dog, and his medications have blown him up into someone who looks like he can’t stop eating.
His appearance breaks my heart — and all I think is “There but for the grace of God…”
I can’t fathom a world in which people are using their phones and the Internet to mock others for malicious amusement.
Here’s a long, detailed and depressing story from today’s New York Times about how badly Apple pays its front-line workers:
America’s love affair with the smartphone has helped create tens of thousands of jobs at places like Best Buy and Verizon Wireless and will this year pump billions into the economy.
Within this world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues. Last year, the company’s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer — wireless or otherwise — and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.
Worldwide, its stores sold $16 billion in merchandise.
But most of Apple’s employees enjoyed little of that wealth…
About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year. They work inside the world’s fastest growing industry, for the most valuable company, run by one of the country’s most richly compensated chief executives.
If you read the whole story, you’ll find one more tale of dashed illusions, of bright, eager and capable employees who thought — oh, honey we all did! — they were, you know, different. They’d make the impossible leap into management, a good salary, commission and/or a big raise.
Retail is the third-largest industry in the U.S. and the fastest-growing source of new jobs.
Shitty jobs. Part-time. Low wages. No benefits. No commission. No bonus.
Most importantly, and most confounding to anyone who still believes America is a land where hard work is rewarded with opportunity to rise, frontline retail jobs — no matter how sexy the product — typically offer little to no chance of upward mobility within the company whose huge profits your cheap labor enables.
As one worker told David Segal of the Times:
Like many who spoke for this article, Shane Garcia, the former Chicago manager, talked about Apple with a bittersweet mix of admiration and sadness. When he joined the company in 2007, he considered it a place, as he said, that “wanted you to be the best you could be in life, not just in sales.”
Three years later, his work life seemed tense and thankless. He had little expectation that upper management would praise or even notice his efforts.
Sales employees, Mr. Garcia and others noted, deal with stresses all their own. Though commissions are not offered, many managers keep close tabs on sales of warranties, known as Apple Care, and One to One, which is personal tutoring for a fee. Employees often had goals for “attachments” as these add-ons are called — 40 percent of certain products should include One to One, and 65 percent should include Apple Care.
Retail is a game of bait-and-switch, of metrics used against low-wage employees to prove they’re productive to keep their job — but never worth much more money.
I lived this world, as a part-time sales associate, working for The North Face, an internationally known brand of outdoor clothing and equipment for 27 months. I earned $11/hr, with no bonus or commission, no matter how much merchandise I sold. Like Apple workers, we were measured by things like sales per hour or UPTs (units per transaction.)
Yet, no matter how much merch we moved, we never made a living wage.
Like the Apple workers in this story, I also quit, (grateful to have boosted my writing income high enough to free myself), also deeply disappointed in the enormous gap between that brand’s sheen and the thankless grunt work of selling their stuff.
Since initial publication, in April 2011, I’ve received dozens of emails from retail workers, past and present, managers and associate alike, telling me how accurate my book was in describing the hell of much retail work. I got the latest only a few days ago, from a Canadian woman my age, working in a women’s clothing store:
We make a small wage (no raise) and are expected to purchases clothes from our store that can cost us 2 months wages. Most of us (sales associates) just buy our clothes at thrift stores.
The Times story has clearly hit a nerve.
As I write this, 513 comments have already been posted; in the time it took me to finish this post, that number rose to 548…