It didn’t help that it was a rainy, grey day here in Southern California . . .
After a long draught, the northern San Diego area I call home is finally getting the downpour we’ve so needed and been waiting for. As I left the supermarket this morning, the ghost of the prior Blockbuster store loomed in the corner like a sad ghost. Placard gone and windows papered over, the store, once thriving with a bustle of suburban activity, now reminded me of the dramatic change we’ve undergone as a society in how we consume entertainment and music content.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Roku and iTunes. Mine is a 9-device Apple zealot family. Over the period of 14 months, I have personally converted every CD my husband I had ever owned to digital content. Not a fun process. Now, I just need to be able to afford a smart phone with enough capacity to allow me to readily access it all – but, that’s fodder for another blog.
But, that convenience comes with a price. A big price. Individual consumption of digital music, videos, podcasts, and movies can be an isolating experience. I’m sure I’m not the only mother who has to set very clear boundaries (and police them with a heavy stick) around iPad usage time, in order to ensure my children can actually hold a conversation, make eye contact and relate to current life situations beyond how they would look in “Angry Birds Star Wars.”
I must admit, I actually used to really like going to the Blockbuster store. It was a mini shopping experience – around other people. I could talk to the clerk and get his input about which New Releases were actually worth seeing. I could buy some popcorn and have a chat with people I hadn’t seen in a while who were there doing the same thing I was. It’s the same “retail” experience I like about bookstores. I totally love the smell of new books at a Barnes and Noble stores. And, I get reaffirmed about society when I see tons of people sitting around, reading and browsing books while they drink their $4.25 Starbucks Venti soy latte. It feels (literally) like a real community. Being on Amazon’s web site shopping for Kindle titles doesn’t quite give me that same touch and feel.
I’ve been in technology for 30 years now. So, to admit that I’m actually a technology laggard takes some guts – but I am. At least relative to most of the circles I travel in. It’s ironic to say, but I’m very fearful about what technology is doing to our ability to be interconnected as human beings. The way digital content is served up now, we never have to leave our houses, our desks, our beds to spend hours and hours staring at a screen. Even if that staring at a screen involves noble activities such as taking an on-line course, doing research or Skyping a relative somewhere else in the world. The neurotic in me worries a lot about how much technology feeds the hyper-capitalistic, consumption-based mentality growing insidiously in our society. Yes, we can read or “Dr. Zhivago” on our Kindles now (not that I’d want to) but doesn’t the real value in that epic piece come when you watch it with 2-3 girlfriends, cry together and lust after Omar Sharif? Together?
I know converged communication is happening whether I like it or not. And, video technology goes a long way to bridge the “personal communication” digital divide. I do agree that technology can create levels of communication that are innovative and good. But, only if that enablement is a link to ultimate human connection and exchange. More communication doesn’t necessarily mean connection.
Share your thoughts with me. Signed, Blockbuster-less in San Diego. firstname.lastname@example.org