My goal this summer was to beat the heat, to unplug, and to have some refreshment and “re-creation” in New Mexico, but despite my best efforts to limit technology, it just can’t be done.
It would take the Amazon jungle instead of Santa Fe, New Mexico, to go unplugged.
Upon arrival in Santa Fe, I found myself at Target buying a new gizmo, the Tile, to hang on my keys so that my phone could ring my only pair, which I kept misplacing. Score one for technology.
Most of my reading I did on books downloaded to my tablet because it was easier than hauling cumbersome paper books. Another bull’s-eye for technology.
I was, however, determined to avoid the constant barrage of “breaking news” delivered ad nauseam in strident, alarming tones.
But even on a remote hiking trail in the hills of Sangre de Cristo, some jerk was running with his phone blaring out the news. People were discussing world events at restaurants; the TVs were on in bars; the grocery stores filled with newspaper headlines.
I used my iPhone to keep in touch with family and friends and repeated alerts popped up letting me know O.J. was back in the news, the healthcare bill was still a mess, North Korea was still doing nuclear saber-rattling, and Russia was still in the background and foreground.
I remember that when I was a child, whenever my parents turned on the news it was about as exciting as watching paint dry. The 15-minute news hour was sandwiched between the Mickey Mouse Club and Leave it to Beaver. John Cameron Swayze would read off events of the day, which usually featured a colonial uprising, something about Communism, and film clips of Ike. Segments would be interspersed with Swayze pitching his sponsor, Timex Watches.
Segue to today. We start the day with “breaking” news from angry commentators, while furiously peddling our stationery bikes at the gym. News alerts on our phones pepper our days. At dusk, moussed and coiffed celebrity anchors whose fashions and private lives are as much a part of the news as the infotainment being dispersed, recap events while breathlessly teasing us with “what’s ahead.” For many, signoff is a late-night talk show, which features more politics and commentary on not only what’s happening but also what’s being tweeted. It’s nonstop and it’s exhausting.
We live longer but not necessarily better, have more information without more wisdom, more affluence without more contentment. I wish we could go back to 15 minutes of news by sonorous newscasters. Like those Timex watches he hawked, somehow with Swayze, we knew the world could “take a licking and keep on ticking.”
Len Bourland, author and columnist, can be reached at [email protected]