Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing

Halloween ends and the countdown begins. Thirty days in November and twenty-four days until Christmas Day.

Halloween ends and the countdown begins. Thirty days in November and twenty-four days until Christmas Day.

During those 54 days, by eye and ear, we are bombarded with every retail ploy known to appeal to the conspicuous consumer. And it does not stop there. Boxing Day is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Consumption drives the economy, and creating demand where none existed before is the art of retailing.

Savvy products, properly marketed, create a want where no want was before, and elevate to a need, those things for which previously their was no felt need. And this culture of consumption is never more “in your face” than during the Christmas season.

Advertising would not be a word in the dictionary except for the invention of the printing press that can now make and disperse millions of glossy colour flyers.

Nobody can doubt that since 1455 when Gutenberg invented the printing press he changed and dramatically altered the way the world acts, and interacts. It made available the books, by which information could be disseminated, learned by others . . . even making public schooling possible.

The printed word has served us well for the past 500 years. But it is quickly being supplanted by another technology that allows for faster communication, faster transfer of information and instant access to any information.

Today, the printed word is being superseded by the Computer Age, the Digital Age, or the Age of Information.

And with it comes the mass marketing of all the kinds of personal electronic devices that are changing the way we go about our daily business, the way we communicate with others, the way we interact with others.

TV, Internet, smartphones, tablets, video games, are all manifestations of how society is changing and moving away from face to face real contact to a virtual world.

There are those who say these devices make us smarter, and we no longer have to study and retain knowledge about the way things work. Few care about how their devices work, but only that they work.

For example, no longer do you need to orient yourself spatially or know how to read a map or understand geography and the cardinal points of the compass.

You can get from A to B by simply programming your GPS and following its directions and voice commands. Or you can use your smart phone in the mall to instantly compare the price on a given item by the various retailers.

Somehow, over the years, shopping has become an acceptable “leisure time” activity. Parking lots are full to the brim, and those who consider themselves trendy and chic actually go out to cruise the malls and stores, to see what’s on sale, to see and be seen, with the holes in their jeans.

The day after Christmas, adults will queue up outdoors to rush some store offering a few bargains.

Like piranha fish, they will converge, jostle and devour whatever is offered up at sale prices. Especially personal electronic devices, where neither batteries nor brains are included. Walk the concourse of any mall, and you will see the extent to which many adults and many young kids have embraced the new technology.

Addicted to their cellphones they “text, talk and twitter” their lives away, much of the time dealing with the trivial. They are networking and reshaping modern society.

Gone are the days when kids would put their nose against the shop window to view what was on display and allow their imaginations to run wild with original thoughts. Tweens and Teens with Screens and Jeans is the new de rigueur. Nowadays, headphone music fills their ears, and smart phone devices capture their eyes, and little else of consequence is allowed to enter the brain. The new social gospel is a faith in electronics, not just for personal entertainment, but a way for social reform. The majority of the waking hours can be consumed by doing nothing of consequence, but warmly cocooned away from reality.

The various social media that include TV, the computer, the Internet, Youtube, DVDs, Movies, smartphones and video games offer up so much mindless entertainment.

The risk becomes that people lose the ability to communicate face to face, or interact socially in any meaningful way. If you ask them a simple binary question, one that can be answered Yes, or No, you may get an answer, or a shake of the head.

If you ask a content question that requires some critical thinking and a considered reply of concatenated thoughts in an intelligible chain you may get a shoulder shrug, and if you continue to probe, you will get the stock answer “whatever” the prevailing cop-out word today that ends all intelligent discourse on the subject in mind. In the electronic world of today there is always an “App” to solve any problem you might ponder.

Even writing complete sentences, or paragraphs is no longer in vogue.

Not when there is any easy way out using the new world of abbreviations or acronyms that glibly try to capture some sentiment or convey some emotion (LOL, BTW, ROFL, OMG, WTF and so on) in a condensed manner. The electronic world of gadgets consumes their days and nights.

You might ask, Why this love of gadgets? The answer is simple. You are never alone if you have them.

The electronic gadget becomes their surrogate friend who can reach any other friend at any hour of the day, or night. And they do. They take them to bed so as not to miss a call, and a friend is only a few clicks away.

I can well imagine that even telephone sex nowadays is akin to “virtual sex” with the capability of audio and video. Go online and watch what you want at any hour of the day.

People actually become attached to their electronic gadgets.

And in many cases the attachment grows to an addiction and they find themselves spending more and more time interacting with their personal gadgets rather than the real world.

They may even have names for them and the gadgets become an extension of themselves and so they develop a sense of love or affection for them. To an extent part of their life is contained within the gadget.

Their friends, contacts, email names and video games. Without their gadgets they lose their identity and perhaps the ability to survive.

Food, clothing and shelter are essential, and electronic devices can now be added as critical, especially if they are lifelines for medical emergencies. Let me clear. I am not against the digital revolution and the use of personal electronic devices. The digital revolution is a good thing, and promises to have as much, or more influence on society than the printed word.

My computer allows me to be more productive. For instance, I can quickly research a topic, gather information, compose, edit and polish a document, and then transmit it in much less time than the old ways.

My phone takes messages or lets me know who called allowing me to make better use of my time. The Internet is a storehouse of information at my fingertips and bigger than any library. And if I want to warm up my mouse hand I can play a game or two of solitaire.

This is all to say that the selective use of digital devices is a boon to those who use them appropriately.

But in the hands of the less disciplined it can become a time-waster and the addicted user may alienate himself from friends, family, and even reality. A properly balanced life is composed of choices and consequences, and the recognition that a correction is needed before, or when things get out of balance. Too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing.

Paul Hemingson is a freelance writer who lives near Spruce View.

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