From my contrarian, technoskeptical, alienated perspective

Mycellphone

Six years and counting! My trusty cellphone-slash-pet might be old and doesn't have a text plan — but it still holds a full charge and has never been lost, stolen or broken.


Letters, postcards, landlines… I've been feeling nostalgic for the media of my youth — or at least of my formative years, circa late 1980s or early 1990s. Doesn't feel that long ago, but the spectrum of communication technologies has expanded in the intervening couple of decades. When I want to get in touch with a friend, I can vacillate for hours now deciding whether I should call them or text them or g-chat them or e-mail them, etc. What's the proper medium for the information I want to convey, or for the type of interaction I want to have? 

If they're at work, then I don't want to call and disturb them; I should probably text. But the details are too complicated, so I could always e-mail or g-chat. But maybe they're not near a computer, or by the time they reply, I might be away from mine. I want to have a live two-way convo anyway, because there's information to exchange or decisions to make, so if they don't answer the phone, I'll just leave a voice-mail. But, they probably wouldn't hear the phone message anyway; they're likely to just call back without listening, right? Or they'll just reply to my call with a text and I'll have to call them again or text them back: "Um, call me, geez!" Maybe I'll forgo the message and just let them see my number on their recent call list. But maybe they're in the subway, and my incoming call won't register; then I'll think they're not responding when really they didn't know I phoned. Or maybe…

Yes, these are the thoughts that run through my head every time I consider contacting a friend. Sometimes I wind up just not getting in touch with the friend at all due to paralysis induced by too many media choices. This state of being results in part from my disenchantment with digital media. It also contributes to my disenchantment, I know 

But, dear friends, even if I do call and you do answer the phone, chances are good that one of us will lose our signal, or our connection will be bad so we can't understand each other and I'll get frustrated repeating "What was that? I didn't hear you," or
you'll be in the middle of something so you'll have to call me back, or one of us will be driving and doesn't want to get a ticket or cause an accident, or I'm at a store/doctor's office/restaurant and other people are glaring at me for rambling on the cellphone in public. It's easier just not to call. Though digital media are supposed to be making us more connected, somehow I feel the opposite. 

Also, it might help to know that this is my phone (above). Not conducive to speedy texting, folks.

The Ministry of Melancholic Nostalgia for Thing-ness

Gorey

For Edward Gorey, even letters to Mom featured whimsical illustrations from his morbid imagination. (Photo copyright Goreyography.com)  


I found myself captivated this summer by an exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum of Edward Gorey illustrations
that included some exquisite hand-drawn envelopes for letters he had
written to his mother, Helen. Even more than the other beautiful, amusing and slightly macabre work
on display, those drawings got me thinking about the loss of material
artifacts that comes with digital communication and its insinuation
into every nook of daily life. Librarians and historians and curators
certainly must rue this turn of events, but so do I.

Digging
through my parents' garage, I recently unearthed a shoebox stuffed with
letters from an old long-distance flame of mine. Some day far in the
future, when I'm feeling nostalgic or working on my memoirs, I'll enjoy
reading those heartfelt missives and laughing (or cringing) at
reminders of the British life I used to lead. It's saddening that I
won't be able to do the same for my lovely and amazing boyfriend now,
because the flurry of romantic texts and e-mail and chat messages he
sends me aren't sitting safely in a box anywhere.

If a museum
ever mounted a retrospective on my life, the curators would be stymied
trying to exhibit anything after 1997-1998, when I sent my parents a
parcel of letters from Beijing that now serve as my main diary of that
Chinese escapade. (Note: The letters feature an unfortunate lack of
resemblance to Gorey's. I accepted the fact a long time ago that drawing does not count among my talents.) To represent the past decade, they'd have to
turn to my Facebook profile… and anyone could read that at home without heading
to the museum. Where's the fun in that? People would miss out on not only crystallizing moments — such as the Brandywine one, which led me to launch
this blog — but also gift shops.