Sunday, June 10, 2012

Magpie Tales 121: He Tweets Me, She Tweets Me Not

Still Life, 1670, detail by Jean François de Le Motte


This week's Magpie Tales photo prompt, shared by Tess Kincaid, made me think about now, the future, and the past as they all relate (or not) to our modern, 21st Century techno-lives.  

Sitting in a coffee shop this past week, I was relaxing.  I was people watching.  I was reading.  Yes, reading an actual newspaper,  one of those things you have to unfold, shake open, hold up to your eyes and read in complete sentences. Remember those?  Of course you do!  Anyone reading poetry blogs knows exactly what I'm talking about.  

Relaxing the paper from my face, I looked around the coffee shop.  There were a number of younger people in the place, and all but one had a gizmo in their hands, thumbs jabbing furiously at tiny buttons with letters of the alphabet on them.  


Sexting, maybe?  I doubt it.  I doubt they have that much imagination going for them, judging by the the dull, expressionless faces I could see!

But it occurred to me that with all this technology, all these flashy toys, all the information available to us online, or in actual libraries, (remember those?) we seem to have created, or SOMEONE/THING has created, a nation of the dumbest humans on the planet.  My daily conversations with the young employees at work suggest that a seemingly large number of high school and college age people today are carelessly unaware, and mostly UNINTERESTED in what's going on around them beyond the tips of their thumbs! 

Through this admittedly biased view, though, I wonder this:  What will all these young people, and the older ones, too, who have been embraced by this brave new world of "NoNothing",  have to show for all this information and communication?  What will they remember from their text messages?  What legacy will be left of their lives and interactions with family, friends, loved ones?  What will their children or grandchildren have as touchstones to their ancestry that will give guidance to their own lives?  

"...stories change 
as memory dusks, 
anguished riflings 

I'm so thankful for letters.  There are ones I've sent to my parents over the years from any number of places I've lived, worked or traveled to.  My mother has boxes full of old letters from my dad.  We have, just as millions of other families have, these physical legacies and histories of the day to day lives of our ancestors, and ourselves!  

What are these techno-junkies creating to physically hold in their hands 20 or 30 or 50 years from now - to physically hold and touch an object that a beloved themselves had once held?  Where are the physically written stories of their lives that future generations will someday appreciate and cherish?

"...losing reference 
to our lives at times
is minor annoyance,
but in other circumstances,
it's the ravishing 
decomposition of 
disease that steals 
our pasts..." 

There comes a time in all our lives when we try to remember an event, a name, a small detail.  The iCloud, or whatever it is called this week, will not always be there for us to hold and review.  It's not actually there now.  It's just a concept.  

"...but for those 
lucid thoughts
we signed, folded,
sealed, sent, and 
preserved, life is 
restored to any 
and all who make
time to 
live in the moment, 
or read the past..." 

If anyone wants to leave a legacy of sorts to the younger generation and their future, leave it in writing. Give them something to hold between their thumbs that will not be gone the moment a "sent" button is pressed.  

Tell them they have been texted with pen and paper.

Offer them a future because they can physically see and hold the past! 

Rick Baker 
June 10, 2012 
Rochester, NY 

© 2012 R. Burnett Baker 


  1. You have hit the nail on the headm, Rick. I worry even about this blogging thing, and am thinking about printing out all my writings and posts...they could easily get lost in cyberspace. Thanks. Laurel

    1. Laurel, I've begun doing exactly that. You have the right idea!

  2. I share your sentiments, all the young people in my office are suddenly ostrich forever looking at their iphones. Though I like the idea of a paperless world, less clutter, there is nothing like seeing the old pictures and letters on my hand. I still keep them ~

    1. Keeping them will, no doubt, give you pleasure in the future! Try to wake your office mates up, Heaven!

  3. Absolutely! Spot on! I thought about writing what you wrote- but you did it much better than I would have- I would have ranted! I really don't understand the alllure of texting compared to the reality of holding love letters in my hand. Nowadays the most I get in the mail (excepting holidays and birthdays) is stupid junk mail.See- now I am ranting!
    Great post- thanks!

    1. Kathe, more of us SHOULD rant! Don't hold back.... Perhaps the more people we can reach through the blog world will actually make some kind of difference.

  4. I have to agree with Heaven. Sadly we do exist in a world with more than enough clutter and quickly disappearing print resources, like black spruce trees. And to show for their texting efforts, the up and coming generation will have larger, aching thumbs! I love this epitaph to a disappearing time, Rick. One day I suppose printed text will be very valuable commodity. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Linda, I think you're right, and I think printed text is already very valuable!

  5. ...maybe underneath their beds in old ipad boxes they have the written moments of their life the same as me!!

    1. Kay, I hope so, but I rather doubt it! I'll bet the boxes were long ago sent to the landfill!

  6. i like "texting" sexting...cute

    mostly i like how you contrast the images with today's methods of communication

    painting details

    1. Zongrik, I think the contrasts are more and more visible if we just take time to many people walk around with their heads looking down.

  7. With all the advances we've made in science and technology, i agree that this generation is still getting dumber and dumber.

    Maybe it's gotten to the point where no one says anything because no one minds. But I mind. And i'm glad you did too, so much so that you wrote this. Thanks, Rick! :)

    1. Nyl, you are an example of your generation that offers hope for a world that doesn't go paperless in the future, a world where people actually hold to these "old" ways of reaching and touching each other.

      I could go on and on about the "dumb generation" aspect, and maybe I will do an essay about that one of these days. But based on my conversations with many of my co-workers, and others who I've hired over the years, I'm astounded by how utterly clueless many people in the U.S. seem to be.

      YOU: Keep doing what you're doing!!

  8. Bravo (!!!) I'm standing and clapping...excellent post Rick...

  9. I don't even have the capability of texting, don't twitter, love sending letters (snail mail) to friends in other cities who don't have email. *YEA! I treasure the letters I've held on to from my father to my mother, from my great grandmother to my grandparents. It's sad, so sad to see where we are heading - and what that really means. Your Magpie deserves a wide audience, Rick!

  10. a good meditation on modernity...oh what we have lost

  11. Hear, hear! I do worry when I see my four year old grandchildrn reach for an iPad in preference to a book. Yes the iPad can be very educational (I love mine!) but you can’t best the pleasure of sharing a real book with a child. I speak as a retired priary school headteacher as well as a grandmother.

  12. Will stationary itself be rated on Antiques Road Show?..I hope that dizzying technology doesn't make it so! Poetry overcomes every plague...please keep writing..I'm hopeful!!

  13. You are totally and absolutely right in this thinking, and I too often wonder these same things. I also believe just maybe this will all fade away, one day, I know it has to, many of us think this way....I hate to think what the children of today will be like when they raise their children, if we carry on this way...

  14. A good point, Rick. There's nothing quite like a hand-written letter. Some of our children and grandchildren may never write of receive one, I fear.

  15. Excellent points raised here that resonate...

    I find many young folk have no interest in the world around them, only aware of what can be pressed by the tips of their fingers.

    And there is a definite dumbing down of society.

    Anna :o]

  16. you have given me a gift
    dear friend
    a reminder
    what will they hold of me
    in the future
    when I am gone
    I shall begin in earnest today
    not just now and then
    hug hug x