I really have to laugh when I see this latter-day moral panic in play, because I am a 48-year-old man who's surrounded by a physical diaspora of distributing computing, and I use my phone an awful lot, but as an enhancement and extension of my basic humanity, not some sort of malevolent glowing eye of doom.
Phones and tablets may be a disease to Sullivan, but to me, they're an unsticking device. While aligning my radial arm saw with some difficulty, I can pick up a pad, do a search, and find a better way. On a road trip with a friend, I can dial up my location and look for the little secret place I found once on a satellite map, then share that hidden wonder with my friend. When I'm sad, I can message a friend who's 2776 miles away and say "I'm feeling cross and lonesome and I need a hug," and she can force me into a video call so we can be face-to-face in a workable simulcrum of direct company that's not available to me just then because everyone else is at work. When I want to make things, or build things, or explore places, or fix my shambling old machines, I can access more scholarship on these various subjects than ever existed in all of human history.
Yet, when I'm hanging with my nine-year-old nephew, when he says "Uncle Joe, I'm stir crazy. Let's ride bikes," I've no qualms about holstering my phone and climbing on my brother's stupid lightweight superfancy bike with the suspension that makes me feel like I'm always about to be hurled into a ditch to chase a little kid's fizzing, mercurial energy down the pathways and side roads in secret suburbia, looking for the elusive secret place that no one else knows. In my pocket, as we bump through root-rough trails, there's the whole human world, and in the woods, there's nothing but four billion years of the product of happy accidents, but they are all the same thing. It's just about refusing to let yourself arrive at a state in which you are so bored that you fall into the spiral of aimless consumption of nothingness, wherever you are.
But maybe that's just me. My nephew informs me that I'm a very weird uncle indeed.
"But you're the best one," he adds, for qualification, and the bicycles sing us onward to who knows where.
posted by sonascope at 2:58 PM on September 20 [133 favorites]
Edited highlights: I urge you to go and read the whole thing.