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Digital Defeatism November 28, 2011

Posted by markswill in About me, Navel Gazing, That's Entertainment.

Not entirely sheepishly, I must nonetheless report my recent and loudly trumpeted digital hiatus a qualified failure. My regular reader may recall that I’d hoped to eschew internet and mobile phone use for at least a week and strictly speaking, I did. But after eight days I couldn’t manage to execute an admittedly unexpected magazine commission by landline and Royal Mail alone, and from there on in it was a slippery slope.

Wiser and more self-disciplined heads than mine scoffed at my decision to cut myself off completely from the modern world, but so easily seduced was I by the plethora of information and its near unlimited right of entry, I had found it impossible to restrict my digital dalliance to a specific timetable. Indeed I’d speculated that access to other life- and intelligence-enhancing activities was suffering as a consequence of being wedded to the web, and in this respect I was vindicated.  I did indeed do a lot more reading, both of books and periodicals, and I also found myself having long and often illuminating ‘phone conversations with people who were as pleasantly surprised as I was to pick up their landlines and find someone on the other end not trying to sell them home insurance.

I actually received a couple of letters from friends who’d taken my original online statement of intent seriously, thus reviving the ancient art of physical correspondence which I much enjoyed and soon embellished with a modest blizzard of postcards, in a couple of cases prompting welcome if slightly bemused ‘phone calls from surprised recipients. In my best ‘Outraged of East Grinstead’ mode I even fired off a couple of letters to newspapers criticising columns I’d found particularly irritating, although unlike my earlier (emailed) salvo to Prospect magazine attacking their aggrandizement of think tanks, neither of them were published. Overall though, I somehow felt more relaxed, with more time for reflection and being less attuned to the demands of others, demands which have inevitably become defined by the digital over a decade or so. And in this respect I can honestly say it made a valuable difference. Having said which, one of the iniquities of email and text messaging is that we are tempted to fire off and expect instant responses to our own needs, whims and fancies with only minimal forethought.

Sadly if inevitably, once the rot had set back in and I started to check, if not always return emails again (about day nine), switched my mobile phone back on (day eleven) and answered my first text (day thirteen), it became blindingly obvious that modern man cannot live alone, or at least not without instant digital gratification. Put another way – we are all prisoners of technology.

But for disingenuous techno-luddites such as I now obviously am, there was one bit of good news whilst I was away, and one bit of bad. Penguin announced that they would not be supplying their new ebooks to libraries for fear of hackers removing their protective encryption – in which case wither protection? – and pirating them to all and digital sundry. But countering this glimmer of hope for the survival on the printed word, we also learnt that the energy consumption of the average UK household has increased five-fold since 1987, much of it due to our use of computers and associated devices. In which case wither global warming? And don’t get me started on bloody windfarms and wave-power.

As a not entirely irrelevant aside, in yesterday’s Observer, agony aunt Mariella Frostrup attempted to cheer up a woman so beset by fears of the imminent collapse of civilisation due to economic foment, sectarian hatred, blah-blah-blah, that she was actively considering suicide. And this just after watching Jeff  Nichols’s new film, Take Shelter, in which a decent American father, played with a growing intensity by Michael Shannon, addresses his similarly prescient visions of Armageddon by basically, like, going bonkers and building a sturdy underground bunker in which he incarcerates his family.

As for me, and despite both Mariella’s somewhat unsympathetic advice (basically “Get a grip, dearie – our great world leaders know what they’re doing”) and last week’s prosecution of a gang producing fake and borderline poisonous Glen’s vodka (which for years I’d happily been buying at Harry Tuffins in Knighton for £12.45 a litre), I’ve managed to find something called Tamova at an even lower £11.99… I know how I’m going to face our uncertain and disagreeable future. Cheers!

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1. Alex Ramsay - November 29, 2011

It’s not just fake vodka, Mark – according to today’s news Hereford is awash with fake Valium as well. There’s no escape, I’m afraid.

2. http://yahoo.com - February 11, 2013

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Fly Blog” was in fact just right! Icouldn’t see eye to eye with you even more! At last seems like I personallyidentified a web site truly worth reading through. I appreciate it, Mohammed

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