Monday, September 21, 2009

Technology Ruins Life's Guessing Games

If "video killed the radio star" then smart phones are killing the music discussion.

A few weeks ago my husband, brother-in-law and his wife were sitting around a campfire in Northern Ontario. It was a beautiful night and much wine had been consumed. We were listening to Queen and the topic of Freddy Mercury's untimely death came up. We spent a mere 60 seconds trying to figure out how many years passed between Queen's first album and Mercury's passing. That's when one of us pulled out a BlackBerry, googled the question and read the answer verbatim from wikipedia, killing the conversation and effectively silencing the debate. Had this discussion taken place ten years ago, we might have passed an hour arguing about the year that Queen appeared on the music charts, sharing our recollection of how old we were and what was happening in our lives. The discussion would no doubt have included some unexpected revelations and surprises.

Later that same weekend, we were watching The Big Lebowski. Somewhere in the middle of the movie the Jeff Bridges character is experiencing a drug-induced trip after being poisoned. I mentioned to my husband that the soundtrack reminded me of a Kenny Rogers tune I used to know in another lifetime. He didn't believe me, but before I had a chance to defend myself, he whipped out his i-Phone and, thanks to Shazam, he was able to grudgingly confirm that I was right. Of course, that wasn't the point. Hearing the song had awoken a memory after almost three decades. As an adolescent I had a good friend whose mom idolized Kenny Rogers and played his records constantly to the point that I can sing along with all of his songs. In the years that followed my friend's family was shattered by some horrible secrets, she moved away and I lost track of her. But for those few years, playing Barbies in her basement, listening to country music, life was good. Of course, I never really got to share that story because, as with the Queen incident, technology had ruined the moment.

It's great that we no longer have to wait more than a few seconds to get the answer to life's pressing questions but the thing is, it's not really the answer that matters, it's the stories conjured up by the trip down memory lane that makes these debates fun. I don't know if technology makes us dumber or lazier but I venture it makes us less interesting.


  1. It's funny you should write about this subject, Louise. The same thing occurred to me a couple of Christmas holidays ago.

    We were debating some pop culture reference and my brother got out his computer to end the debate: end it, yes he did. I remember feeling annoying and disappointed as it happened. Sometimes the experience of those debates is what is worthwhile and not necessarily the correct answer.

    I like social media as much as anyone and I think there are certainly some debates that should "go online", but most casual debates should just be left alone so they don't disrupt the momentum of the conversation.

  2. I couldn't agree more. For those of us who love pop culture, the discussion is so much more important than the answer to the question.

  3. I'm going to have to disagree with both of you. While technology might ruin the debate in some cases, it also leaves room for larger debates that can't be answered by technology. While we can easily look up when Queen's first album came out, we can't as easily answer the question about whether Queen or The Rolling Stones were a better band.