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Are you a Luddite? September 22, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, and no, a Luddite isn’t a member of some obscure religious sect. It’s a person like me or our friend Ben who’s technologically inept and perfectly happy with that. Never been on Facebook? Don’t tweet? Never seen a YouTube video? Refuse to Skype? Keep a cellphone only for emergency breakdowns, and can’t remember too clearly how to use it if the car does break down? No worries.

I place a very high value on my time and privacy. If I go online, it’s to check and respond to e-mails, blog, research, check the news, and write (and/or edit). I figure that’s enough of my time spent online, and it’s many hours every day. I don’t want to waste even more time with Facebook, Twitter, and the like. I love peace and quiet, and resent any loud, abrupt intrusions into that stillness. I even have the sound turned off on my computer, and refuse to listen to radio, much less TV, so I’m not subjected to a constant barrage of high-volume ad pitching.

People who interrupt whatever they’re doing—even talking to other people—to frantically answer their phones or an incoming text are incomprehensible (and incomprehensibly rude) to me. My feeling is, if someone wants to reach me and I’m not immediately available, they can e-mail or leave a voice message and I’ll get back to them at my convenience. If whatever they have to say isn’t important enough to warrant leaving a message, it’s not important, period.

However. OFB and I don’t watch TV, we don’t even get TV reception here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. I would not want to waste my time plunked in front of a TV screen, but I realize that TV, celebrity, and trendiness are the great unifying factors of our society. I may never have heard Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, but I feel I ought to at least have heard of them, so I don’t seem like an alien when I go out in public. (Friends pitch in on this, too, subjecting—I mean, exposing—me to everything from Adam Lambert to Lil’ Wayne. Me, I prefer Kelly Clarkson and 50 Cent, but I digress.)

My Yahoo home page helps out here, too, with its endless barrage of celebrity coverage. OFB and I love movies and watch them regularly via Netflix (again, putting us in control of what we choose to see), so I’m familiar with a lot of the stars who regularly feature in the headlines. If I’ve never heard of them, I tend to assume they must be on TV.

But there’s another effortless way to trend-spot and stay current that a colleague put me onto years ago: DailyCandy (www.dailycandy.com). The folks at DailyCandy tirelessly search for what’s hot, and what should soon be hot, nationally and locally, and you can subscribe to get regular e-mail updates from them. They’ll clue you in to the hot designers, restaurants, artists, spas, vintage clothing stores, cocktails, vacation getaways, yoga classes, you name it. If it’s something you can buy, DailyCandy is on it. I get regular e-mails from them covering the national scene and Philadelphia, the city nearest me, and I try to read them faithfully, though the likelihood of my ever taking advantage of anything they recommend is right up there with an asteroid hitting the earth.

Today’s communication from DailyCandy, however, reminded me of exactly how much of a Luddite I actually was. The e-mail heading was “Make Gift Cards Obsolete.” Well, I spend a fair amount of time and money selecting ever-more-expensive greeting cards for friends and family for birthdays and holidays, and, I’m humiliated to report, assumed “gift cards” meant “greeting cards,” so of course I opened the e-mail to see what DailyCandy had to say on the topic.

Oops. “Gift cards.” Those plastic cards to restaurants and stores you see in racks at the grocery. I’ve never gotten or given one, so they’re peripheral to me, but that’s no excuse for not cluing in on the headline. (And no, I don’t either send or read e-cards, in case you’re wondering. I actually write messages on cards I mail out, and try to make sure the messages say something worth reading.)

Oh, well. Having opened the e-mail, I figured I might as well read it. And oh, boy. It was like a snapshot of the modern, anti-Luddite lifestyle. To access this next-generation, stylish gift-card alternative, Giftly (www.begiftly.com), the giver goes to the site, customizes all the options, and sends the Giftly via Facebook. The recipient redeems the Giftly by clicking a button on her smartphone, and is reimbursed for her purchase via PayPal. (Disclaimer: There are other options as well, should you choose not to use any of the above.)

Facebook. Smartphones. PayPal. A Luddite nightmare all wrapped up in one short paragraph. Not that I’m dissing Giftly itself: It’s customized and beats the hell out of a generic plastic gift card. And, as the DailyCandy notes, unlike a gift card, a Giftly never expires. For most, Giftly sounds like a really great option.

But for Luddites like me, it still doesn’t feel right, even if I was supremely comfortable owning and using all the tech toys required to access it. I want to choose gifts for the people I want to give gifts to. (Otherwise, why not just hand them a check? God knows, we all could use one!)

I want to patronize local businesses and boost community well-being. I want to go into each shop, chat with each proprietor, and ask the person who made each piece of pottery or jewelry or herb blend or quilt or carving, or grew each beautiful plant or vegetable, or made each loaf of bread or wheel of cheese or bottle of wine, or selected each book or antique, all about it. I want to see it, feel it, smell it. If it feels right, if it makes me feel happy thinking about the person I intend it for opening the package and seeing it, hooray. Another joyful, community-enhancing, hands-on transaction.

What if the person you’re giving a gift to lives far away, or you have no clue what they’d like? If they live far away, that’s why God invented FedEx, UPS, and the postal service. If you don’t have any idea what they’d like, why on earth are you sending them a gift to begin with? I tell you, a check is always appreciated, especially in this economy. Or, say, a crisp new bill in a greeting card, be it a $5 or $100. Or maybe a Silver Eagle. But again, I digress.

Those who enjoy giving and receiving gift cards and are techno-competent, by all means click the link and check out Giftly (and subscribe to DailyCandy while you’re at it). But if you’re on our gift list, you’d better check your mailbox instead.

               ‘Til next time,

                               Silence

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