LZ Granderson: I hadn't manually turned off TV in years
Granderson: I suspect technology has turned us into automated idiot savants
He asks how many people can dial their loved ones' phone number from memory?
Granderson: Technology has gone from assisting us in our lives to taking over our lives
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs
It was late, the football game was over, and I was ready for bed. The problem was, I couldn’t find the remote control.
It wasn’t right next to me on the couch in my hotel room and I was too lazy – or drunk – to dig between the cushions to look for it. So after a couple of glances, I decided to just turn the TV off manually and worry about finding the remote in the morning.
I slid my hand down the sides, ran my fingers across the top, bent down and looked along the bottom and even tried tapping the screen, as if it were a 48” iPad.
Now, again – I had been drinking. But I don’t think Jack and Cokes were the reasons why I had no idea how to turn the TV off. As I was fumbling around looking for something that looked like a power button, it dawned on me: I hadn’t manually turned off a television in years.
Eventually I grew tired of looking and decided to just unplug the damn thing and take my drunken self to bed.
And this is what technology has turned me and I suspect many Americans into: Automated idiot savants.
Tell me, how many people with smartphones actually know their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s telephone number and can dial it from memory? I’ve been with my partner for three years and after the area code, I couldn’t tell you a single digit that’s in his number. We met one night, exchanged numbers and I haven’t dialed it since.
Funny – I used to joke that if I ever lost all of the contacts backed up on my computer, I wouldn’t be able to call my own mama. Now I realize that I really wasn’t joking. I don’t know my mama’s number.
Not only that, I don’t know her address either.
I know where she lives, but if I was suddenly cut off from all technology, I would have to get in my car and drive three hours just to say “hi.”
All of which brings me to this: For all of the wonderful conveniences technology has brought into our lives, there is something to be said about all of the little things that have been lost because of these advancements as well.
Like knowing by heart the telephone numbers of the people we care about.
Stopping in a gas station and asking another human being for directions.
Going to a record store.
I can remember spending hours with my high school friends roaming the Harmony House record store in downtown Detroit. The first 45 I ever bought was Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and I can remember my black friends teasing me for liking “white people’s music.”
Now, I am sure on some level I am simply romanticizing life before Steve Jobs. I am not against the technological progress we’ve made – I’m just trying to put it into context.
Technology can deliver a song faster to us, but there are some things in life that can’t be rushed.
To this day, I still think “Wanted Dead or Alive” is one of the greatest songs of all time. But more importantly, the interaction that came from purchasing that song as well as other conversations that occurred in that store over the years helped shape me into the person I am today.
You know, my son hates it when I tell him to grab a dictionary whenever he asks me how to spell a word he can’t figure out with spellcheck. “Dad, just tell me,” he would say. And I would say, “No, otherwise you won’t learn.”
Don’t get me wrong, spell-check’s a great tool, and I use it. But it pays to know the long way in case you can’t take the shortcut.
I have seen my penmanship become increasingly illegible over the past 20 years because despite being a writer, I don’t really write. I type. And so over time, using a keyboard exclusively has led to a degree of atrophy in my writing hand. Now I can barely get through handwriting a personal note in a greeting card before noticing a little pain or soreness.
Some people may wonder what all the fuss is about. It’s no big deal that I don’t know by heart my loved ones’ phone numbers, as long as I have them programmed in my phone. Right? It’s easy and convenient and efficient. I guess I’m wondering if technology has gone from assisting us in our lives to taking over our lives.
In a recent Vodaphone survey, 54% of the responders said it was OK to pick up the phone while out to dinner and 57% said they’d pick it up while going to the bathroom. But the thing that really got me is that 33% thinks it’s OK to pick up their cell phone during sex.
That’s when I think this whole technology take over goes from being funny to a bit sad. (Unless they’re taking pictures … in which case I say, carry on.)
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.