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A Few Downsides of Modern Life

‘Read-receipt’ acrobatics, the disappearance of morning routines and LinkedIn, to name a few

The past — what a wild time! On the one hand: Polaroid cameras, seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium, hanging out with Ernest Hemingway on the Left Bank, Quaaludes and watching the finale of M*A*S*H with your dad. On the other hand: the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, incoming phone calls that kick you off AOL, Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt and the only good barrel maker in your hamlet dying of the bubonic plague.

But who’s to say the present is any different? On the one hand: the internet! On the other hand: the internet. On the one hand: Uber Black. On the other hand: Uber Pool. Certainly we’re living in a playland of bourgeois modern convenience — an orgy of innovation, disruption, wearability, big data think-fluencing, disruption and innovation.

But have you ever put down your phone long enough to consider the darker side of modern life? Here are the things that currently freak me out (or just plain confuse me).

‘Read receipt’ acrobatics
I keep read receipts switched on because, in theory, I’m an open book. But of course, nobody is actually an open book, so I waste a not-unsubstantial amount of mental energy running daily PR for my disingenuous read-receipt lifestyle.

A true terror.

A text comes in. I see it immediately, because I’m pretty much always holding or near my phone. I read as much of the text as the multi-line preview allows. Do I open the text and risk having to dignify the sender’s imposition of on-demand conversation? Do I ignore the potentially-urgent missive and wait until I’m in the mood to text? (I’m never in the mood to text.) Often, I just delete inconvenient texts to avoid triggering the read receipt. I’m not proud, but like I said: I’m an open book.

The rise of the hoverboard
And the subsequent rise of people who correct you by saying that it’s not really a hoverboard. You need to stop.

The complete disruption of “morning”
Think back 10 years to your pre-smartphone days, back when you spent all your free time working out, preparing healthy meals, transcendentally meditating, reading Rumi to the last girlfriend you would ever meet offline and sanding rustic wooden beams for sport. Times were simpler then. Can you even remember your morning routine? I can’t remember mine, but I bet it was great. Did I go out to the chicken coop to retrieve fresh eggs for a frittata? Did I go on a run before enjoying some green tea and the daily news? The first light of my day was certainly not LED-backlit. Alas, the smartphone ate the alarm clock, and our mornings are forever ruined.

Lack of outlets in bathtubs
As the pace of modern life compounds, taking time to decompress becomes essential. After a hard day performing post-industrial labor at my laptop computer, there’s nothing I love more than a long soak in the tub with my handheld computer. But often, by the end of the day, my phone battery runs low, and there’s nothing worse than having to get out of the tub mid-bath to retrieve the extra battery pack I bought at Five Below. Until battery time surpasses bath time, we must demand VC funding for in-bath plugs.

People dying in Ubers
It happens.

People dying in drone strikes
It happens.

People dying in driverless cars
OK, this hasn’t happened yet, but it definitely will happen.

People dying in general
I feel like we should have prioritized technological interventions for death over whatever Nest does. Actually, speaking of dying …


… No technology to confirm you are not dying
In the early aughts, the “Am I dying?” industry saw great strides with the introduction of the WebMD Symptom Checker, but progress has since stalled. I’ve endured a whole year of discussion about whether wearable tech will make me healthier, but we still don’t have an app that can deliver a binary answer to the question, “Am I dying?” I do not want a device that uses bogus accelerometer technology to tell me how many steps I’ve taken; I just want one that tells me everything is fine.

The reason why people use LinkedIn
There’s got to be a better way to get in touch with your first babysitter.

The reason why people use BitCoin
I still have no idea how they work or even what they are. It’s fun to say “block chain,” though: block block block.

The reason why people still use the internet

Jamie Lauren Keiles is a writer.

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