Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Technophobia for Dummies…

It has come to my attention that lately, certain aspersions have been cast. There’s a change in the air, a certain atmosphere when I sashay gracefully (or stumble, or skip, depending on my mood and overall excitability level) into a room. If I listen carefully I can almost hear the whispers, the hissed insults... I’m half expecting a rock through my window any day now attached to one of those notes, where each individual letter is fastidiously snipped from The Times, or The Guardian, or What Psycho magazine.

So what heinous crime have I committed? I queue politely, maintain a blandly unobtrusive ring tone and wouldn’t dream of risking that special level of hell reserved for people who talk at the theatre. But apparently, this isn't good enough. Apparently, I’ll be hanging out with the perjurers in Dante’s Inferno, because I, ladies and gentlemen, am a liar. What with the role playing and the zombies and the chess, the word on the street is that I am not a Reluctant Geek at all...

More just one in denial.

True or not, this week I’m drawing a line in the sand between myself and the world of geekery. Except the line is more of a wire, which is probably already demonstrating how hideously out of date I am on this week’s subject. Technology. I just don’t get it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I have some vague understanding of how it all works… I haven’t thought my laptop was powered by tiny pixies for at least a year and a half now. And I get why people *use* technology. I use it myself to check the internet whilst hiking in deepest rural Somerset, or to catch up on my favourite shows, or to write this column.

What I don’t/won’t/can’t get, is how interesting the truly hardcore geek finds it - how much conversation it can generate - and the levels of frantic anxiety that seem to exist when it isn’t quite right. Linking up the laptop to the TV to play online programs strikes me as an infinitely sensible idea, but being driven to paroxsysms of despair when your girlfriend* leaves the tiny white mouse symbol still hovering around doesn’t. Likewise I love my phone. It lets me talk to my friends and family, and check Facebook on the go (which I’m sure we can all agree is the very definition of life enhancing!) but when people start talking about Android technology and apps and user interfaces I fix an interested smile on my face, and start playing the movie ‘Footloose’ in my head. I imagine this is how people feel when I start waxing lyrical about PBGV puppies, or wild swimming, or the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Which is to say, baffled but indulgent.

And I know that I’m demonstrating my true Luddite credentials when I say this, but I’m yet to be dragged over to the dark side of the Kindle. It’s a great idea and I can see the appeal intellectually, but there’s a stubborn part of me screaming "No! I need an object I can hold in my hands, with that wonderful ‘book’ smell, and the chance to trip over it and stub my toe on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night." I have a similar attitude to SatNavs, except that rather than just being a tad resistant, I actively hate them. I dislike being told what to do at the best of times, and I’m afraid I’m just not going to take it from a box of wires and screws (or whatever you actually find inside a SatNav!) The mere presence of one is enough to turn me into something akin to the most stereotypical male driver, who despite having been lost for six hours and late for his own wedding, actively refuses to stop and ask for directions.

It’s all OK though. Despite my disinterest, I've never been anything other than happy to co-exist alongside each new innovation. There are always those voices telling us that the internet is ruining our social skills, our mobile phones are giving us cancer and HD TV is damaging our eyesight. But it’s all a bit of a cop out. I don’t want to sound like Yoda or anything, but we have to master technology and use it in the ways that are best for us (or should that be ‘ways that are best for us, we must use it’) rather than letting it make us its bitches.

On which note, perhaps I’m just not taking proper advantage of the technological possibilities with my current mobile ringtone. I’m off to download something catchy and outrageous. Or maybe it’s not a case of downloading, maybe I need to text, or hook up my iPod, or...

*She is very sorry and won’t do it again!

This week Kate is in the mood for strawberries.

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