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19 July, 2010 (11:13) | Growing Up

Muppet Learning Keys
The Muppet Learning Keys were a child’s ultimate indoctrination to computers in a world before the Wii.

I feel as though I was born wired in. I had my first computer at age 4, complete with the Muppet Learning Keys to teach me how to navigate a computer more effectively than Fozzie Bear. My parents gave me a pager before they went out of vogue, and thanks to that Mountain Dew offer, I was only a buzz–and walk to a pay phone–away from letting them know where I was and what was going on. I spent much of my free time in high school chatting online, both on AIM and IRC, sending emails, playing games. In many ways, my social life was virtual.

As cell phones become de riguer for most, I avoided any more digital tethers for as long as possible. A job in college finally made me feel as though having one were necessary. At first, I couldn’t stand losing signal. I would walk out of class and check for messages as soon as bars began to appear. They were rarely there, but I felt obligated to check anyway. My cell, combined with my graveyard shift job and free long distance, allowed me to while away the witching hour chatting with friends half way across the continent.

Eventually, the job faded, my bank account along with it. When I canceled, I felt lost for the first few days. I kept the worn brick of plastic in my pocket solely for comfort, though I did occasionally use it as a phone book. Gone was my ability to remember phone numbers like I had in my youth. Gone was my seemingly endless connection to the world at large. Soon, though, I began to relish the solitude. I was off the grid and it felt wonderful. I could lose myself in my own world and it took effort to interrupt.

It took nearly a year before I needed a phone again. I once again got used to the weight of it against my thigh, its subtle vibrations making me twitch with anticipation, my fingers wriggling with anxious curiosity. I swore it would different, that I wouldn’t forget that feeling of freedom. I tried turning my phone off or leaving it at home, but I feared what I might miss if there were an emergency. It was possible to do either, but I never relaxed instantaneously.

Given my penchant for bad birthdays, and knowing the deluge of calls, texts, emails, and everything else that come pouring in, I decided soon after that my birthday would be unplugged. I wouldn’t give up my phone or stay offline, per se, but only those communications essential to the day would be answered, acknowledged or dealt with in a timely fashion. All else could wait.

Another birthday has come and gone, and not without its surprises. The biggest surprise by far was that either I hadn’t expressed this disconnection policy to my parents or they had forgotten, making for an awkward conversation the following day when I returned their call and thanked them.

SIDE NOTE: Birthdays are arbitrary to me. We celebrate another revolution many times each year. Chinese New Year, Jewish New Year, and New Year’s Eve/Day all register celebrating revolutions alone. Were we born on another planet, the length of revolution around its star might be different. Neil Armstrong walking on the moon was a milestone; a birthday is just another mile marker. Christmas, July 4th, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter all demarcate the annals of time every year around the same time. And while birthdays may have helped celebrate another year of survival in the past, we no longer worry about survival in any sense that truly matters. There are lots of reasons to celebrate, but time alone seems like a silly one.

I spend too much of my time connected, be it video games, email, surfing the net, texting or simply on the phone. For one day each year, I want to really experience the world and people around me without any digital distractions.

So if my birthday rolls around some year and you feel so inclined, please feel free to leave me a voicemail, drop a note on my facebook wall, or even sent me a card.

It will all be appreciated and enjoyed in time.


That’s how wired I was. Never again. NEVER AGAIN!

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