Letter Writing: The Stone Age

When was the last time you received a hand written letter? Think about it. Not an email or an electronic invitation to an event. Someone actually sat down and took more than 5 minutes to write a thoughtful letter to you. I remember after my grandmother passed away, we went over to her apartment to clean up and box the rest of her belongings. I was amazed when I opened one of her closets and found mounds of boxes upon boxes of hand written letters that she saved (yes she was a bit of a pack rat). She served in the army, at that time called the WAC (Women’s Army Core), so hard written letters were the only form of communication to home at the time. My grandma had letters dating back to the 1960s from family members, people she met in the army, and friends from her childhood. I remember sitting down for a long time after finding all of these letter and reading through stacks of them. Some letters were a few paragraphs while others contained pages and pages of words. There were letters explaining births, marriages, special events, deaths, and the actions of everyday life. My grandma loved reading letters because they allowed her to remember fond people and the memories that they shared together. I was sad thinking about how no one in my generation has the need to write a letter to someone because of the inventions of the internet and cell phones. Instead of having stacks of letters, we now have 1,000+ emails sitting in our digital inbox.

Don’t get me wrong, I think email is a great invention that is much needed in our high tech society. I can still remember the dial up AOL internet and the sound of “You Got Mail” erupting from the speakers of the computer. The same rush that people now get from receiving a text message was felt when people received emails in the 90s. People use their email for a variety of different reasons from conducting business to keeping in touch with family members to receiving online shopping deals. I check my email multiple times a day because of the important emails I receive from my professors, coach, teammates, bosses, and campus wide emails. Smartphones have made checking email so much more convenient since emails go right to you phone. I had a simple phone before I got my iPhone and I remember feeling out of the loop because I could not check my email whenever I wanted.

If servers did crashed and email was not available, the world would move a lot slower. People would have to pick up the phone to call people farther away, walk upstairs in their office building to get feedback on a project or even have to teach themselves how to send letters again. Business would be a lot less efficient, information would not spread as quickly, and people would be forced to pick up the phone instead of sending a quick email. Email is a very quick way to get in touch with someone if you have to write a long message with a lot of detail. It takes a lot longer to sit down and hand write a letter than it is to type out an email on a computer screen. Business is largely conducted through emails to approve projects, set up meetings and ask other coworkers for information or feedback. The world we live in is digitalized and the use of email has helped increase the speed of the world. People could live without email, but they would not be as efficient or productive as they would be with email.

Dear Diary…Today The F*ckin’ Cell Phones Crapped Out

April 3rd, 2013

6:45 AM: I am awakened by a bright flash that seems to illuminate the morning sky.  What the hell was that?  I immediately reach for my iPhone to check for what happened.  Shit.  My phone doesn’t even turn on.  I go to my roommate’s room and his phone doesn’t work either.  I now realize my worst fear has come to fruition….all cell phones are now just useless pieces of plastic.  My first class isn’t for another 3 hours so I decide to sleep a little and see if the phones work when I wake up.

10:01 AM:  I awake in a panic.  I overslept and now I’m late for class.  How did that happen?  Oh yeah, my alarm was set on my phone and that’s dead.  I rush to class and apologize to the teacher, but as I look around the class there are at least 6 other students not here yet.  Halfway through the class I get bored as hell.  I can’t check my Facebook, Instagram, Wall Street Journal, Snapchats or Tinder, so I resort to doodling small pictures of animals in ironic situations.  My first picture is of a lion (lyin’) swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Next to him is a cheetah (cheater) telling a woman he is in a loving relationship with his wife and refuses to commit adultery.   My entertainment is short-lived and now I have to pay attention again.

11:00 AM: Class ends and I am hungry.  I told my friends I would meet them at the Bison at 11:05, but I have to meet a Professor really quick uphill.  I get to the Bison at 11:21 (I got distracted by some chick on the walk over and had a 5 minute conversation).  None of my friends are at the Bison.  I reach into my pocket to give them a call…..damn, I forgot. I decide to grab a table near the TV which is currently airing LIVE with Michael & Kelly, and try to change the channel to ESPN but the damn remote never works in that place.  After 10 minutes of waiting, my friends never show up.  I end up ordering my food and eating alone as I watch Michael Strahan make a fool of himself.  The same girl that I saw on the walk over now sees me eating alone and watching this show…I feel embarrassed.  She giggles directly at me and looks over to her friends to point me out.  They all laugh.  Awkward and alone, I wish I had my phone to act like I actually had friends I was talking to.  Instead, I put my jacket around the chair next to me, a couple used napkins and my drink infront of the other seat, and my backpack on the back of the last seat, making it look like my friends have stepped out for the moment but will return shortly.  At 11:45 I see my friends walking by and I asked them what happened.  They told me they waited but never heard from me, so they went upstairs to the cafe…after all, it was blackened beef salad day and they couldn’t resist.

12:02 PM:  We are walking back to our downtown house when someone brings up the TV show Full House.  “What was Uncle Jesse’s band’s name again?”  This question haunts me because it is on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t recall.  I wish I had my phone to give a quick Google search, but that option is out.  Now I have the unsettling feeling in my head (you know exactly what I’m talking about) and NEED to find this answer.  The next half hour is spent in deep thought, but I’m coming up empty.  Well, my day is now ruined.

3:37 PM:  I get in my car to drive to an obscure store out in the country in search of a birthday gift for my mother.  Somewhere along the way I must have taken a wrong turn.  I am now in a random Pennsylvania town with absolutely no idea of how to get back home.  At this point I usually breakout the Maps app, but just like every other problem I had durung the day, I don’t have my phone.  Now I have to ASK for directions and write them down on a piece of paper (which I don’t have so I end up using a page from the owner’s manual).  On my way home, I have to continuously look down to read the directions.  Out of nowhere, a telephone pole jumps directly into my path (or I drifted off the road…the details are still being worked out) and I have to swerve like a madman to avoid it.  I hit a ditch and my front axel gets ruined.  My car is totaled and I am SCREWED.  I stumble to the nearest gas station to find a landline and contact my house.  I get to the phone but realize I haven’t memorized a phone number since I got my cell phone.  My house number was recently switched and I never took the time to commit it to memory.  Why would I when it was saved in my phone and on the Cloud?  Turns out I have no way of calling my house so I give up.  After an hour of waiting, I finally get a taxi company to bring me home from this distant land.  I go to pay the man and the price is higher than expected.  I want to check my bank statement before I overdraft my account to pay for this, but I can’t because I can’t access internet on the go and I don’t remember my password because it’s saved on my phone.  So I use the card anyway because I don’t have cash and ‘whaddaya’ know, I overdraft.

8:08 PM: I go out for few drinks with my buddies.  My one friend gets WAY too intoxicated and decides he is going to dance on the bar.  Well I want to document this so I have blackmail over my friend for years to come, but realize I can’t because my phone also doubles as my camera.  This one is just going to have to be a memory, and I am not a fan of that.  He’s lucky this time.  After a few more drinks I begin to fraternize with the lady-folk.  One gives me her phone number just in case the phones start working, and like a fool I put the napkin in my pocket.  An hour later my drunk friend spills his Irish Car Bomb on my lap and I lose this chick’s number.  Damnit.  I don’t even remember her name.  I feel like an idiot and now I have no shot of even facebooking this fine young lady.

11:59 PM:   I am laying in my bed…alone…drunk.  I feel like I could use some company this evening, so I go to my phone to send the classic late night text, “You up?”  Well, I can’t do that.  This sucks.  All day I have had problems and not a single one was solved.  OH SHIT! It was Jesse & The Rippers!  That was Uncle Jesse’s band’s name.  Well at least one problem was solved.  My life is miserable without my phone.  I pray that when I wake up the phones work again.  As for now, goodnight cruel world.

On Instagram Straight Flexin

The minute I wake up each morning, I grab my alarm clock (a.k.a. my iPhone), unlock it, and spend the first moments of my day checking social media outlets. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Facebook is obviously the most dominant of the four. Facebook has been part of my life since I was 14 years old; it’d be very easy to imagine what my world would be like without Facebook. Although it often offers the most intimate information about the people you’re connected with, Facebook offers the least intimate experience. I often find myself deliriously reading my news feed and asking myself, “Who is this person? Why are they on my news feed? What on earth are they talking about? Why do I care?” Many people I’m friends with (I’m talking about real-life friends) have deleted their Facebook for extended periods of time; some reactivated their account and some have remained “off the grid.” Perhaps it’s because they are more novel than Facebook, but I would have a much harder time deleting my Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat.

Both Instagram and Twitter have a format that allows for more personal sharing that would normally happen in the real world. Facebook offers so much information that is entirely unusable. I really don’t care about what my best friend’s little brother ate for brunch, but Facebook puts it on my newsfeed. I think the exclusivity on Twitter and Instagram come from their terminology. To connect with someone on Facebook you must “Friend” them. “Would you like to be my ‘friend’ so we could both be updated on the mundane lives we each are living?” It’s almost rude to not accept a “friend request” from even the most obscure “real-world” connections. The information gained from such “friends” is often unwanted and, for the most part, useless. Twitter and Instagram on the other hand each use the terminology of “following”. “Following” someone is a lot more deliberate than accepting a “friend request”. What I mean by more deliberate is that you choose to “Follow” where as you’re practically obligated to accept a “Friend Request.” On Twitter I follow 115 users, compared to the 1000+ friends on Facebook. The information I consume on Twitter is far more relevant and worthy of consumption than that of Facebook. Twitter consists of close friends’ quirky thoughts, not aimed at anyone in particular, and short amusing anecdotes. If Twitter, or Instagram, were to disappear I feel that my “real-world” connections would suffer far more than if Facebook were to disappear. I care about what a friend of mine tweets, I don’t care about the 180 picture photo album my cousin’s ex-girlfriend put up of her spring break.

"Hit that flash quick, Post my bad habits,F*ck you and your Instagram." - Pain by A$VP Rocky

“Hit that flash quick, Post my bad habits,
F*ck you and your Instagram.” – Pain by A$VP Rocky

My Twitter and Instagram, because they are more exclusive and personal, are a much deeper extension of myself than my Facebook. The smaller audience size of my Tweets and Photos, as well as the limited amount of output all users are allowed, enables me to share deeper, richer content while knowing those reading are more likely to appreciate my statements. For this reason, I think Instagram and Twitter are far more personally fulfilling than Facebook. Rappers like Trinidad James and A$VP Rocky recognize the greater intimacy of these social media outlets and reference Instagram by name in their lyrics. A world without Twitter and Instagram would be less enjoyable than a world without Facebook.

Shameless Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat plug: @bermansauce

Wake Up and Smell the Daisy

When I first heard Mike Daisy’s story I did have some concern about its validity. However, I brushed it off and continued to listen because if it’s on public radio and my professor told me to listen to it. By the end, Mike’s monologue further convinced me that Apple allowed Foxconn to treat their employees horrendously.  I actually called my mom to inform her about the “facts” I learned about how a thirteen year old, over worked Foxconn employees manufactured her new IPad. I soon informed everyone who pulled out an IPhone about the blood, sweat and tears that created their technology. To me, Mike Daisy’s monologue presented the cold hard truth.

Before I even heard Mike’s monologue, I read multiple article’s about Foxconn’s working condition.  I read stories about nets to prevent suicide, unbelievable working hours, standing for hours, dangerous chemicals and the horrific dorm conditions. So when I heard Mike’s first-hand accounts, I felt like his experience just solidified all of my previous knowledge.  But when I found out Mike Daisy lied, I immediately started questioning everything I read and heard about Foxconn and Apple.

Listening to his confession I felt torn between feeling sorry for him and angry at him. I felt sorry because his intentions were somewhat good, yet he still lied to people who depended on him to provide the truth. He lied about the guards, under aged employees, blacklist, dorm cameras, the man with the mangled hand, working conditions, and much more. The “facts” to his story were lies. I understand he wanted to make people care through telling a story that captured the totality of his visit, but he cannot lie about facts. Once you lie about facts, you can ruin the credibility for the whole topic. People now will question the validity of any Foxconn and Apple news they hear. In reality, his lie’s only give power to the very people he is trying to stop.

When Daisy performed on This American Life, he committed to telling the truth. He made people think his stories were true. The truth is not elusive, objective truths do exist. However, constantly people are forced to look at everything skeptically because our media has a reputation for fabricating or exaggerating facts.  The common image of media depicts desperate, wired reporters that will do anything for a story. This image causes people to mistrust articles and stories that present facts about different topics, not just apple.

To a certain extent, I believe the image is accurate. By no means I believe every reporter acts unethically, but I believe that it is extremely important to think critically about stories we hear. This is why Sociological Imagination is important. The Sociological Imagination calls for people to look at the whole story before you make judgments and decisions. Look at the ENTIRE picture, not just what you want to see. The Sociological Imagination forces you to look at both sides and make an education decision. If I would have done more research about Daisy and Apple, I would have discovered the different opinions and probably discovered that he lied a lot sooner than I did.

Overall, you can see how easy it is to spread news about something as big as Apple. Hell, after thirty minutes of listening I called my mother and told her about what I just heard. This exemplifies the importance of telling the truth. If you don’t, rumors and lies will inevitably spread.  Even worse, when you lie like Daisy, you aren’t the only one who loses credibility, your cause does as well.

I Phone For Help

It is scary to think that despite the fact technology is essential to my everyday life, I have never thought to think where it all comes from. People are concerned, or at least aware, about where clothes come from, if their coffee beans are free trade, if they are using green products and other aspects of their everyday consumer lives. But when it comes to the fastest growing industry, people rarely consider how their electronic devices were made.

Personally, I never thought about the roots of my electronics till my business class sophomore year when my teacher handed out an article about Foxconn and Apple. To be honest, I never heard of Foxconn even though they create one-third of the electronic we use. I assumed my electronics were made in some factory in China with complex machines I never have even seen. However, it takes an article about Foxconn putting nets on the side of their buildings to stop suicides to have me question the creation of electronics. This whole time people thousands of miles away working 15 hour shifts on minimum wage have created the majority of my electronics. It never occurred to me that they were like any other product: man made.

The circumstances Daisy explained in the factories made me ashamed to think that I never questioned my electronic devices. They closely monitor every move of the workers with cameras and staff looking over their shoulders. They force workers to stand all shift because they are “more efficient.” Factories demand quiet to ensure workers are working. The most horrific aspect of the factories to me was the dorms. Daisy described them as cement curbs that were stacked on top of one another so close that “none of us could actually fit in them.” These workers go through hell to obtain a minimum wage job that forces them to sleep in a crowded room where they can barely fit in their beds. Daisy even describes that when he was there an employee died because he was working a 34 hour shift.

The working conditions at Foxconn would never be accepted in the United States. By expanding labor overseas, we distanced ourselves from the ethical dilemma of fair labor. Especially in the tech industry, companies choose not to investigate and force suppliers to act morally. As Daisy said, companies and consumers “see what they want to see.” However, the way to stop these conditions is through companies demanding oversea suppliers to offer better working conditions. For example, Apple is starting to make a positive impact on Foxconn through demanding forcing them to offer counseling, numerous audits and constantly monitoring working conditions. Overall, people need to think critically about where electronics come from just like other consumer products. By doing this, people force companies like Apple, Dell, HP and other electronic companies to monitor and force suppliers to create better working conditions for employees.

Do I Control Electronics or Do They Control Me?

Growing up as a kid, I was very technologically sound, and what kid isn’t these days? Everyday I walk around campus, everyone is on a smartphone, whether they are checking their e-mails, listening to music, or playing words with friends, technology has really impacted our everyday lives. I remember when I was younger and I got my first cell phone, all I used it for was calling my parents. Eventually, texting starting to become the next major thing. People weren’t calling each other anymore, they were texting each other. So what did I do, I got a new plan and got unlimited texts. Next, Blackberries became all the rage since you can now access the internet from your phone, which was a big deal for any kid growing up in the internet age. So I got a Blackberry and began to search the net from my phone and not from a computer. Then, a revolution broke out when I was in high school that would forever change our technological society, the iPhone.

Apple, known very famously for its computers and the overwhelming success of its iPods, decided to join the cell phone industry and changed the business completely. On this phone, you could have an app for your e-mails, an app for finances, an app that played guitar sounds, and even an app that could track your phones whereabouts even if you lost it. It was revolutionary on the grandest scale, and what did I do of course, I bought it. So I held in the palm of my hand, something that could  not only make phone calls and write texts, but an electronic device that could give me access to all my e-mails, finances, music, social media, video downloads, etc. Hell, I even have an app that  makes the phone a flashlight. I mean, even the flashlight industry took a hit because our smartphones now emit enough light to help us see in the dark, which is ridiculous. So what happened after?

Zombies. No not zombies in the sense that people are going around trying to eat humans for their flesh. I mean zombies as in people now have become brain dead and increasingly less social amongst each other when meeting physically. Every time I am out to dinner with friends, people are just constantly on their iPhones. And doing what you may ask? Playing a game, posting a Tweet, reading a blog; it’s ridiculous. I remember when I used to have full conversations with people, now and even including myself, we all just text or even send snapchats of ourselves for social communications. This product from Apple has completely changed our lives. Even now, computer sales are dropping as people are now switching from their Macs to iPads. So what’s next?

I know about Apple and their business methods. They use sweatshops to create their products and constantly change their products on a yearly basis just to increase sales and sometimes not even value of the product. Mike Daisy describes the horrors he saw in Chinese sweatshops and how terribly they treat their employees. Are sweatshops bad, of course they are. Do I feel terrible because I use products like Apple or Nike, where they use these kind of places to make their products, most definitely. Unfortunately, my technological addiction that I have developed over my entire life from these products has consumed me to the point where I block out the bad automatically and relish in the good. And I’m not the only one. Most people today believe sweatshops are terrible, but they still buy the products that these companies create. So why? It’s because we have created a new society where technology controls our lives and we have fallen victim to its vast innovative power. We are consumed by its sleek and innovative design and are astounding by what such a little item can do. But what did I lose in the process, am I now consumed completely to the point where this phone controls my life? What do you think?