Eileen Mitchell, writer-author-blogger from the Chicago suburb of Palatine, is first place winner with her essay Roped in by Technology.
Her essay was judged top entry in a national competition to find the best examples of the style of writing practiced by Rogers, popular “cowboy philosopher” of the 1920s and 30s, said Robert Haught, president, Will Rogers Writers Foundation, contest sponsor in association with the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Eileen Mitchell – First Place
Roped in by Technology
All I know is just what I read on my gadget screen. They say prehistoric folks used stone tablets for the news. We modern folks use tablets too. That’s progress for you.
But nobody can convince me that staring into a rock or a toy is the best way to read the news. It’s kinder cold. Nothing like the feel of papers in your hand, hot off the press as the newsboy shouts, “Extra, Extra!” Now the extra is what you pay for the wireless service.
It all started with those personal computer machines, but now it’s the modern telephone that is causing the biggest commotion. If Alexander Graham Bell had known what he was unleashing on the world he never would have called Mr. Watson into the room to see his new invention. In his day, you had to holler into the contraption to be heard at the other end. Funny, that seems to be pretty much the case today. You can’t go anywhere in public without having to hear about someone’s dinner plans or x-ray results. You may not be able to tell if the liver is on the menu or the lab tests, but you just as soon not hear about it at all. Makes a fellow kinder nostalgic for phone booths. With the invention of portable phones, the whole world has been turned into one big phone booth.
And the noise and news is coming quicker than greased lightning. Used to be an in-depth newspaper story, spread out, would not only cover the furniture but the subject matter as well. Reading is now down to a nubbin called a “tweet”. Tweeting is for the birds. Anyhow it used to be. And still ought to be.
They say no news is good news and maybe that’s the idea behind tweeting. You can’t say much in just 140 letters. Most folks use that much just to clear their throats. Now the news is greeting card-sized without the best wishes.
And the terminology is a corker. Whether it’s “tweeting” or “texting” it all comes down to something called a “sound byte.” I can remember when that phrase most likely had something to do with bad table manners and chewing too loud. One good thing to come of this new compact communication is it might make the politicians get to the point faster. Those political birds already know a thing or two about tweeting. It’s when they get to feathering their nests that the taxpayers ought to watch out.
But technology don’t make the news any easier to understand. I remember when “common core” referred to the apple passed around the schoolyard after lunch. Now I here tell it’s some fancy way of making arithmetic harder than it already is. Seems like a waste of effort to try and make kids hate arithmetic more than they already do. Just ask any kid with common sense about “common core” and they’ll tell you it’s a lot of applesauce.
The topper is a thing called “social media.” You get a “news feed” on your computer but the news is mostly for the dogs. You’ve never seen so many stories about dogs raising kittens or cats with puppies. It don’t make explaining the birds and the bees any easier. And the kids are already confused about multiplication.
Pictures on the news feed seems to be the main event. There’s a gag called a “selfie” where you take a snapshot of your face and paste it up on the screen so you can see yourself. That technology has been around for a long time. It’s called a mirror. Only now it seems folks are willing to pay for the privilege.
From what I can gather, social media is designed so you can find out that someone else is having a better time than you are, unless you work at it harder to make sure folks know you’re having a better time than they are. It’s the latest version of “Keeping up with the Joneses” only now you have to keep up with them every few seconds.
There’s a notion that all this new technology means progress, but I ain’t so sure. It seems that nowadays everybody is herded, corralled, or planted in front of a picture screen all the time. Folks need to get outdoors more. And it’s no good just to take pictures of flowers if you’re not going to stop and smell the roses.
-by Eileen Mitchell