Our Digital & Electronic Prisons
Over the last several weeks I have endured multiple Internet outages of several days at a time, the latest one last just a hair under a week. While, the outages were an issue with me getting any site work, or emails replied to, they were also very eye-opening for me. I am sure that like me, you have heard of people whose lives were ruled by Facebook, Twitter, or Redditt, for myself I have stayed away from all of the Social Networks whenever possible. However, I have concluded that like those folks I also live in a Digital Prison, maybe not in the same manner as them, but I am imprisoned just the same.
I have tried to write without Internet Access and found it fairly difficult, for several reasons. One of those reasons is that I mostly use Scrivener to write these days and while it is possible to use it without Internet Access that partially cripples that program for me. You see I use its Sync Option to Sync to my Dropbox Folder, I also use it on both my Desktop Mac Pro as well as my iPad Air 2. Without being able to sync files that makes writing that way very difficult. Since I can’t sync files that only gives me the option of writing on one platform. To not cause any Sync problems, I went back to using MS Word and LibreOffice. However, both of those programs are also partially crippled by the lack of Internet access. Again, partially a Saving/Syncing issue as I use One Drive or Dropbox to save the majority of the things that I write using either of those applications. Since Office 365 is partially to completely Cloud-Based, any of its apps, MS Word included don’t function well without being able to call home.
But I can save all of my files locally, and then Sync/Upload them later when my Internet Connection is available, and resolve the saving issue at least temporarily that way, of course, that means I will have to do a lot of Manual Saves instead of AutoSave using MS Word, the AutoSave Feature, still works I believe in LibreOffice, however, being the big scaredy-cat that I am I manually saved every couple of minutes to be on the safe side.
No, the biggest issue that I found trying to write without Internet access, is that I use DuckDuckGo and Google to not only verify that I have the right word to use for the scenario I am writing, but also too research items, people, and places. In addition to those problems several of the applications that I use for Grammar Checking are also cloud-based, so they are dead in the water as well. Without Internet access, I find myself hobbled beyond belief. In the old days, I would just pull out my Funk and Wagnalls, or grab the appropriate volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica or the New World Encyclopedia. Since I don’t have any of those now, I am sheer out of luck, well at least the Thesaurus in MS Office and LibreOffice still work.
Because of that situation, I have concluded that the majority of our Digital & Electronic Society are ill-equipped to live life outside of our Digital & Electronic Prisons. You see I found out that not only was my writing crippled but my whole life was partially crippled as well. Now before you say well you can always write by hand in those notebooks that you are always carrying on about, well that is fine and dandy except for one little thing, even when I was writing in my notebooks, I was using my iPad to research things. So that idea went down the tubes as well.
The reasons that I found the rest of my life crippled outside of writing were little things that I never really paid attention to or thought about. I need to use a Nasal Spray twice-a-day to help keep my allergies under control, and I am too lazy to set the alarms on my watch to remind me or download an app for my Desktop or Phone, so I just asked Alexa to do it. However, with Internet access, Alexa is dumber than the proverbial blo… All she can do is flash her lights, Siri on my Desktop Mac Pro and my iPad suffer the same affliction, lack of Internetitis 😉. So, since I can’t write or visit any web sites, that also means no site work, that leaves either reading or watching the idiot box. I have been doing a lot of reading, finished several books, went to watch TV, however, since I use an Over the Air Antenna, and I live in the middle of nowhere that kind of limited my options, so I thought I would just watch something on Amazon Prime (one of the perks of being a Senior Citizen and on Social Security) or my friend’s Netflix. Unfortunately, no Internet no Amazon Video, or Netflix. So, I have been doing a lot of cleaning, driving my cats crazy, even reading some physical books, going to bed early, and plotting out lots of stories.
All of these issues made me stop and think about how imprisoned we are by our Electronic Digital Leashes; we really do live in Digital & Electronic Prisons.
I can’t tell you how many times that I went to send an email, buy something from Amazon, pay a bill, or even look up something on the Net. Every time that happened, I would just shake my head and mutter, “Later or Tomorrow.”
With as many issues as I have been dealing with just think how much worse it would be for those folks that rely completely on Electronic/Digital Devices or totally Electric Houses and there was a massive Electric Outage? How many folks have BBQs, Gas Ranges, Battery-Powered Lights, and even Old-Fashioned Landlines?
How many folks can cook without their Digital Recipes, as most folks don’t have Physical Cookbooks anymore? Cell Phones don’t need electricity, or do they? Sure, you can use Solar Chargers to keep your Cell Phones and tablets charged, however, you won’t be able to call anyone, because Cell Towers need power, and their battery packs only last for a short period of time.
Another interesting thing that I found out about Cell Phones Apps, is that while the vast majority of them used either a Cell Signal or Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet some of them won’t connect to the Internet when your Wi-Fi is down and you have WiFi turned on. They will just sit there and spin their wheels or give you a message that there is no Internet Connection. So, you turn off the Wi-Fi and voila the apps will connect to the Cellular Network. This issue may only be on my Samsung S7 Edge, but I highly doubt it. One of the issues you will occur is that when your Wi-Fi comes back on, and it isn’t turned on you won’t notice, and your Cellphone Data is going to disappear rapidly.
So, is it possible to break out of our Digital & Electronic Prisons, and if so, how do we do it? It isn’t easy, but it can be done, however, it will require some planning and a fair amount of intestinal fortitude or stick-to-it-ness! First, if you have a family, you need to set strict Screen Time Limits and then stick to them. Second, adopt a No Electronic Device at the Dinner Table Rule and enforce it. Even back in the era of landlines, my family had a very strict rule about phone calls at dinner time; in fact, we used to love busting my parents when they tried to take a phone call at dinner. Third, get a Library Card and use it to borrow and READ some Physical Books, you might have to teach your kids how to turn the pages. Fourth, go to someplace like Goodwill®, the Salvation Army or Garage Sales and pick up a physical dictionary and maybe a set of Encyclopedias. While the Encyclopedias and Dictionaries may be out of date, they are still a good place to start, and a very good skill to have for College. Fifth, and probably the hardest thing to do, teach everyone, including yourself possibly, how to cook without a Microwave, and how to make coffee without using one of the ‘K’ things. I didn’t promise that it would be easy, but it can be done. At least I didn’t tell you to teach your kids how to use a Typewriter!
I actually have a few physical books, because now and then, I like to experience the physical act of turning a page and reading that way. Plus, when I use a physical bookmark, I know it will still be there when the power goes out or my computer crashes.
Another example of our Digital & Electronic Prisons watching a table of teenagers sitting at a table in a Mall Food Court, and totally ignoring the people they are with while they are playing, video games, tweeting, or thousands of other things. One of the strangest things I ever saw was a couple strolling through the mall arm in arm and each of them with their nose in a phone ignoring each other!
And since I am an old Fuddy Duddy I happen to abhor eating in Non-Cell Phone Free Restaurants. I go there for a nice relaxing meal and maybe some quiet conversation. I detest having my meal interrupted by a Salesman taking orders over their phone while talking loud enough to be heard throughout the restaurant. The polite thing to do if you get a call that you have to answer, either answer it and tell the person calling that you will call them back as soon as you have finished your meal; or take the call outside or into the lobby.
So, let’s all see if we can break out of our Digital & Electronic Prisons, and see if we can make this a better world to live in. You just might find it nice to have face to face Physical Conversations again as well! It is a sad symbol of our time when people can only communicate with each other by text or voice through an electronic device. Now don’t all pile on me, because I use Skype and Discord voice chats a lot, however, I use them to talk with people across the country not sitting next to me.
Thanks for taking the time to read my words. I am always looking forward to hearing what my readers think of my words, and I always reply to every email as soon as I can, Internet outages notwithstanding. So please drop me an email to The Story Lover
 (A fuddy-duddy is a person who is fussy while old-fashioned, traditionalist, conformist, or conservative, sometimes almost to the point of eccentricity or geekiness. It is a slang term, mildly derogatory but sometimes affectionate too and can be used to describe someone with a zealous focus on order.)
The Dearth or Death of Common Courtesy
Over the last few years, I have noticed that common courtesies have been disappearing. I am not just talking about opening doors for folks or saying hello and goodbye. Although, those things seem to be going the way of the Dodo Bird as well. What concerns me the most is the way we are treating our fellow human beings. With all of the technological advances in communication, you think that we would be communicating more, and better. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Instead of improving communication, technology seems to have ruined it, at least in my opinion. Email was supposed to give us a faster, more secure method of communication, that would increase the amount of communicating because of its speed, no more waiting for the Postie, no more fighting the dog for the mail, etc… However, the technological side of email caused and is still causing road bumps along the way; differing standards, lack of standards, compatibility issues between programs and servers and so on. A lot of older folks never adapted to email as they considered it too cold, and impersonal. Emoticons and emojis were introduced to alleviate that issue and to make emails more fun to use overall. That in itself caused a whole other issue, that I will get into in detail later. Email was finally beginning to catch on in public, and not just in the workplace, or corporate world.
And then along came Twitter, and its one hundred- and forty-character Tweets. That, in my opinion, was when the world went to hell in a handbasket. However, that wasn’t the only reason. However, it may just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. And yes, as you will see later the use/overuse of clichés was also one of the issues as well. From what I understand the character limit was so that tweets would be quick to write, and quick to read as well. Also, some mobile carriers imposed that limit on their SMS (Short Message Service) messages. More about TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) later as well. Tweets were supposed to be a time-saver, however, like email in the corporate world, it soon developed into a huge timewaster instead of a time saver. A timewaster, because the character limit, made getting your message or point across very hard, so you ended sending several tweets instead of one email. However, Tweets were nearly instantaneous a big step up over emails. To get around the character limit folks began to resort to those dreaded TLA’s, abbreviations and emojis to get their point across in the limited space. That, however, had its own problems as people had to stop and decipher the TLA’s, abbreviations and emojis.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this same pattern of ‘writing’ has carried over to email and even letters. Unfortunately, this technological shorthand has also turned up in stories posted on the net
Twitter and email aren’t the only venues for these issues, the same things are showing up in Chat and Workflow Programs like Skype®, Discord, Slack and others. Slack and other programs of the same nature were designed to make up for the fact that some emails lack of continuity and instantaneous communication in a way that Twitter and its ilk couldn’t supply. One of the issues with the chat programs such as AOL Messenger, Yahoo Chat, ICQ and others was the lack of compatibility as well as security. The problem was that unless all the people that you wanted to chat with were on the same program you were out of luck unless you wanted to run multiple chat programs. Programs like Trillium came along and tried to solve the problem by letting you log in to multiple programs from a single user interface. Unfortunately, compatibility and security issues along with proprietary software led to the demise of most of those applications. While Slack others like it have a greatly simplified workflow for a lot of companies that have divisions or workgroups located elsewhere than the main corporate campus, they have also become in a lot of cases just as big a time-waster as email. Workers are now so busy using their collaborative software making sure that everyone in their group is on the same page that no individual work is getting done. In a lot of cases, innovation and creativity have been stifled. I believe one of the main reasons for this is a lack of training or teaching on communication. In the case of collaborative corporate software, people were trained on how to use the software, however, in most cases, no guidelines on when and how it is supposed to be used were never given or developed.
By now you are probably asking yourselves; what in the heck does all of this have to do with Common Courtesy? I am glad you asked, and for those of you that have figured it out congratulations. I think it all goes back to the fact that very few folks outside of my generation are actually taught how to write a letter and the courtesies that go along with writing a letter. A lot of folks that I know have taken the letter writing skills they were taught and applied them to emails. Unfortunately, that isn’t true for everyone, while I may not start every email with Dear John, I always use the person’s name, and in most cases, I try to at least use Hello, you did notice I said try? I can’t tell you how many emails that I receive that simply jump into whatever issue is on the person’s mind. If that wasn’t bad enough, they don’t even close the email with their name or thank you, or anything similar. How much time does it take to type a salutation or closing? Another thing that I have noticed is most people only read the first paragraph of an email and sometimes only the first sentence. So now for those folks, I only write very short emails, regarding a single subject. Due to a lot of folks not knowing about the Reply All button in their email I am going to have to start adding: Please Hit, The Reply All Button To Reply To This Email. It is really confusing and time-wasting when you have to stop and forward replies to several different people because some folks didn’t use the Reply All. Not only does not using the Reply All waste time it also makes for a confusing email conversation, when some people only see some of the replies. So, if you see an email is being sent to multiple people please us the Reply All Button, it will make life easier for a lot of folks.
Clichés, TLA’s and Acronyms:
Now onto the problem with Clichés and Abbreviations and Acronyms; they don’t mean the same thing to everyone. Not all countries and age groups have the same clichés which make them hard to understand for a lot of folks. I have to admit that I use a lot of them, however, I will be cutting way back on my usage of them. (At Least I am trying to.) The issue is the same only worse with the dreaded TLA’s and memes. A lot of the acronyms and memes in use today, especially on Social Media and Platforms like Discord, Skype, and Teamspeak, only make sense to a small group of folks. One of the reasons for that is a lot of the memes and acronyms are based on Video Games, Movies, and TV Shows that not everyone plays or watches. Additionally, some of the acronyms, memes, and even clichés are age-related. Folks outside that age group will have no idea what you are saying or trying to say. Yes, a lot of us Computer Experts/Geeks/Nerds use a lot of computer jargon at times, and that isn’t courteous either, so I am trying to stop. We will just have to see how that goes. A couple of simple examples of how Three Letter Acronyms can go bad, are ATM, and HEA, ATM in the general usage is Automatic Transfer Machine, to those of us that working in Networking it also means Asynchronous Transfer Module. HEA to a lot of people means Heavenly Ever After. I had to look that one up. Of course, some long acronym/abbreviations are just as bad. Anyone that has been anyway connected with the military will know that SNAFU means Situation Normal All ‘Fouled’ Up, NFG means No F’ing Good, and FUBAR used to mean ‘Fouled’ Up Beyond Recognition, that is until it became a clothing line. I learned about SNAFU from my Dad who served in the Navy, I had to learn about NFG from my Uncle when it was on my license plate. The point that I am trying to make is that you need to make sure that the group/people that you are using Acronyms, and Abbreviations for actually understands them. This is especially important in Chat Rooms with participants of all ages. I have to admit that I stay out of some Chat Rooms/Groups as I have no idea what most of the participants are talking about. This really sucks when it is a story discussion group, and yes, my age probably has a lot to do with that.
One of the issues that I am seeing a lot of is the lack of overall courtesy in Chat Rooms/Conversations on Skype and Discord. I do have to admit that I am occasionally guilty of breaking courtesy myself. Two biggest issues to me are; Joining a conversation without saying hello, and second leaving in the middle of a conversation without saying goodbye or anything else. I am personally guilty of the first one sometimes and for that, I apologize. The second one is the one that drives me nuts the most, and that is because it is extremely annoying to be talking to someone for several minutes, and suddenly they stop replying without a word and they never pick up the conversation again. I understand that emails and private Messages may draw people away, however, they should at least say something, that is the polite thing to do. Again, I believe that this has to do with the lack of training, and guidelines, and the fact that technology seems to have outpaced common sense. Or it could be that these things aren’t needed anymore, and I am just an old fuddy-duddy. (A fuddy-duddy is a person who is fussy while old-fashioned, traditionalist, conformist, or conservative, sometimes almost to the point of eccentricity or geekiness. It is a slang term, mildly derogatory but sometimes affectionate too and can be used to describe someone with a zealous focus on order.)
I hope in all of those words above you were able to pick out the important parts, and hopefully a few ‘kernels of truth’ as well. I will leave you with these words to mull over while you are looking for something else to read; Meh, BRB, BFF, Gnarly, Sick, Baad, well I hope that you get my point.
The End Finally
As always, I enjoy receiving comments positive or negative on all the things that I write. It is especially when I write things of this nature. So, please send your emails to The Story Lover.