Johnson: Dreams of tossing tech

April 13, 2014 6:41:03 AM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -

 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Six inches of snow out the window where the azaleas ought to be. I am in Colorado for a few weeks, and my dogs are back home in Mississippi. My work computer has taken on a life of its own, with so-called "pop-ups" pestering me like door-to-door hawkers. 

 

So, naturally, I gravitate to the op-ed piece in The New York Times with the headline "Is the World More Depressed?" 

 

I don't mean to make light of the author's thesis. T.M. Luhrmann begins by quoting The World Health Organization statistics that indicate suicide rates have increased 60 percent in the past 50 years, "most strikingly in the developing world, and that by 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world." 

 

The writer concludes that increasing development, urbanization and technology might all contribute. People with problems access Facebook, for instance, and see "happy" photos of "friends" whose lives seem richer and more successful. "We place ourselves in a vast social order in which most of us are ants," Luhrmann writes. 

 

I have my own theory: Technology is the root of all evil. But, as most of us appreciate, it's a necessary evil. I'd love to ride up Pike's Peak today and fling my laptop off the mountaintop. I'm not going to do it, however, because I have to write a column after this one and one after that one and another and another. The syndicate that distributes my work would frown on snail-mail delivery. 

 

I do, however, dream of a day when I'm not tethered to a computer. I will write my real friends real letters -- if the U.S. Post Office is still in operation. I will be smart about phones, avoiding them unless a faceless conversation is absolutely necessary. I will spend more time outdoors and less in front of a screen littered with icons I do not understand. 

 

In order to regain reasonable control of my marauding computer, I phoned a number I saw online that promised to make life good again. The salesman on the other end said I did not need a new computer -- "Oh, that laptop should last 25 years" -- only the services of his company. For $300 over two days, computer technicians I could not see did (maybe) things I did not understand to "clean up" a mess I had not made.  

 

I might have researched this company, taken a more measured approach to throwing money at a seven-year-old laptop. At some point, however, you have to trust someone to be telling the truth about technology you do not understand and will never understand. Explanations only confuse me. 

 

And so, this faceless but sincere-sounding young man on the telephone got my business. He didn't sell me the first service I called about (for $40) but something far more extensive (for $300). I talked like a sucker, walked like a sucker and probably was gauged like a sucker. 

 

I'm not even angry about it. If it takes $300 and a day and a half to rid myself of intrusive advertisements for products I may need but don't want, or may want but don't need, then it's a small price to pay. If the service was worth $30 instead of $300, I hope the salesman celebrated his victory with champagne and a toast to suckers everywhere. 

 

Only I hope he did it with real bubbly in a real glass with friends he could actually see. If he was depressed that morning, I hope he felt better at quitting time, less of an ant in the social pecking order. 

 

Rheta Grimsley Johnson, a nationally syndicated columnist, lives near Iuka.