Confessions of a curmudgeon’s stab at multitasking



The North Fulton Curmudgeon here, once again pre-empting this space normally dedicated to that erstwhile executive editor who normally grumbles over these pages.

I have come to realize that in this new “connected” age that there is much nostalgia for that old “unconnected” world we used to have.

It is convenient, I admit, to have a phone strapped on at the hip like an Old West gunfighter, never missing a call or a text or a tweet. But what have we lost?

There was a time I could get in my car and expect to be alone with my thoughts. It was a time of concentration on the events of the day, a chance to strategize. One might even just enjoy a quiet drive and notice the fall leaves turning or the dogwoods in bloom.

Now that phone rules us all. You can pretend to not be in and let the phone ring. But with voicemail and texts on the phone, there is nowhere to hide. I used to love getting in the car because it meant no one could intrude on my thoughts. No one could call me away to put out another fire at work.

Of course it put a lot of miles on the old Toyota, but it was worth it.

But what is worse – nay criminal – is what all of this technology is doing to the English language. People today don’t remember them, but I can recall getting letters – those things with the stamps – that had more than just the gist of what was happening while someone had a few seconds waiting at red light.

No, a letter was something tangible, tactile and often quite personal. A letter meant someone took a great deal of time and thought to put words to paper. Even the handwriting was personal.

A letter might be warm and friendly, telling of experiences recently shared and what was new. And they were special because they were altogether rare. It took time and thought to express oneself. And there was personality in the language. Some wrote as they spoke. You could tell who the author was by the tenor of their prose.

Letters were often kept and reread to experience again that special mode of communication.

Compare that to today’s emails. People today seem to thrill in brevity over completeness of thought. Most are curt to the point of rudeness, especially in the workplace.

I went to a website for texting beginners. Here is the introduction:

Our desktop messaging has migrated to our smartphones and tablets, and spelling and grammar have been slashed in favor of thumb-typing speed and ease.

Hmm. Spelling and grammar slashed. Mr. Burnett, my old English teacher would be apoplectic. He used to give us grammar tests by having us diagram sentences from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Real grammatical construction is a thing of beauty. In a generation or less, we won’t know a preposition from a participle.

Even today, we sacrifice all for brevity. I have written essays, I have sweated out deadlines to write stories, I have labored over columns. But I have never blogged.

Blogging must be the anti-matter of good writing. Very little attention is paid to exposition – that is asserting a thesis followed up by research and analysis.

I am reassured by friends that there is quite good writing to be found at some blog sites, but given the examples I have found in my short sorties on the Web, I am not heartened to believe they are anything more than the exceptions to the rule.

Besides, blogging is such an ugly word (an amalgam of Web Log). Who would want to be known as a great blogger?

I don’t text (unless at figurative gunpoint) and I certainly don’t tweet. (Isn’t someone who uses Twitter a twit?)

Then there is the phenomenon they call multitasking. I like Wikipedia’s definition of it: Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task at the same time.

The key word is “apparent.” Most multitaskers are simply screwing up two things at the same time.

Some of us, however, have mastered that 21st century art we call multitasking. It is perhaps the one 21st century communications skill that I have perfected with razor-sharp edge.

So I go now to do just that. I’m going to watch a football game and drink beer.

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