Time gets pushed to the corner and online commerce swoops in for button-pushing holiday shopping. I’ve done it, because I don’t have time and I get stressed out about missing deadlines, so I enter my credit card and walk away.
My sister-in-law is a stay-at-home mom, who relishes in gift-giving. This year for my birthday, I got a package with a scarecrow sticker on it saying Happy Fall, a handmade card, and a shirt wrapped in tissue paper. The gift itself was modest, but the handling of it delivered a lot more, beyond monetary value. It moved me, as gifts should.
Dawn and I tried Christmas shopping Saturday morning, downtown. I remarked that online shopping is really taking a bite out of traditional retail more and more each year, and as I said that I realized I’d rather be home shopping online than waiting at traffic lights, avoiding pan-handlers, riding escalators, carrying bags.
We know it to be true, but the combination of convenience and capitalism comes with a cost, with a loss that’s hard to replace, and becomes a new cultural norm.
It’s what makes it OK for the kids in line in front of us at Starbucks to have their phones out making faces into the camera, projecting themselves elsewhere, and not see anything unusual about it. They’re there and they’re not there at the same time because they feel the need to be somewhere else, because they can. And so they’re nowhere.
Technology swoops in to take the mess and time out of gestures made by people, and the irony is that the convenience replaces the personal touch and intimacy we crave, for real connections.
Which is why it meant a lot to me that a blogger friend sent a CD by snail mail and wrote a personal note with it; he became real in that moment more than an email, more than a scattering of HTML. His CD in my car is a personification of him, as the coffee mug in my kitchen cabinet from another blogger friend, because they are tangible objects. (Perhaps I should get into voodoo, and start making dolls.)
For me, the fear is that we’ll become less real as we outsource more of our expression through technology. Or, we’ll just grow into it the way tree roots grow around their landscape, become inseparable with it, unclear where one ends and the other begins.