Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blame Alexa?

Happy New Year! I'm going to get to a "catch up" entry, but this came up first for me. I needed to get it out of my head before I explode. I'm going to say Happy New Year, then word vomit here a bit, then go back to what I did over break and such.

I don't know who to blame. I know it's not Alexa's fault, but her hands are totally clean either. Blame for what? For the dumbing down of society. It was happening way before Alexa, and I'm sure I've written about it, but technology is really doing a number on us as a general people. I'd blame the people as individuals, but it's just too many of us.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about people just refusing to take even a few minutes to do any research whatsoever. There is this new need to be spoon fed everything and it needs to happen immediately. Nevermind all this negative stuff going around about millenials, it's not them! It's my own peers. Those people who are forty and up, who couldn't seem to find their way out of a paper bag without asking an online community and who run to the internet to trash a business or organization, without taking any steps prior to that to try to rectify any kind of problem, issue or concern, privately. It's like my peers have totally lost the ability to think for themselves and find information that's theirs for the taking with just a hair of extra time and energy. Or they forgot how to problem solve without becoming just a virtual tattletale.

*FYI, I'm not talking about my store here. I'm speaking generally after reading posts in online groups, forums and message boards on various topics, businesses and organizations. One example that just came to mind, which wasn't even why I was writing this, was how somehow, people in my town were complaining online about our mayor being the one responsible for making a secular celebration out of what used to be a more Christmas themed celebration. He had nothing, at all, to do with making it secular, but by the complaining and erroneous, endless online commentary, you'd believe he was the one and only person responsible.

It's positively maddening. We were the generation on the phone for HOURS, watching tv shows on the phone with friends, falling asleep with the phone in hand with someone on the other end, also asleep! There used to be a popular show where the main characters all sat around for hours in a coffee shop talking face to face, exchanging information. If someone had a question, they had to do a little bit of their own investigation.

Now, we can't seem to have any face to face or mouth to phone interactions whatsoever. It's strictly running to groups on social media AND expecting everyone else to do the work. They're already ON the internet, but can't seem to take that extra step to google or read anything before posting questions for which they could've had the answers to five minutes prior. And then posting strong opinions about what they haven't even verified to be true! I know we see a late forties Mariah Carey being carried around, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are allowed to be that dependent on other people. Or technology.

I don't have Alexa by the way. For those not in the know, Alexa is that Amazon thing that I guess is like Siri, but better? You ask it anything and it answers for you. So if you're cooking and your hands are dirty, you don't have to look it up. You can get her to play music or tell you the square root of something. My friend Stephanie Klein just wrote a love note about Alexa yesterday or the day before on her own blog.

I happened to see Stephanie's entry, so that's why I referenced Alexa. I was always swayed to get an Alexa from Stephanie's blog entry. Then, I had an unpleasant interaction with a woman this morning who, while seemingly unstable in general, I have a feeling that technology has had a hand in her inability to search for her own information. Or at least that's the benefit of the doubt I'm giving her. This woman and I are both in a certain Facebook group where dumb questions run rampant. However, not only was this a dumb question because it could've been figured out with a little common sense, but it was put out in such a way, that it came off as a complaint. Instead of prefacing the question with a "Hey, just curious- I don't live here anymore, but I remember it used to be this way when I did live here....How does it work now?", it came off as an accusation.

I've seen so much complaining and lack of common sense by my peers in these groups, the question/accusation/complaint immediately gave me douche chills. 

This particular group isn't THAT busy. If she'd scrolled back just a little, she could've read not only the actual answer to her question (it's there!), she could've seen the climate of the whole broader subject. She would see why people, including me, answered as tersely as we did. If this was brought to her attention, her answer would probably be that she "didn't have time" to read back. She had time to think about her question, type it out, then come back and argue about why she asked it, then throw in some insults. In my estimation, she had plenty of time to put common sense to use AND read old posts. Instead she got completely unhinged and went on the attack. Or what she thinks was a counter-attack.

I think people underestimate how much time they actually DO have for frivolous endeavors such as needing to know random facts and information about a place they no longer live. But needing to know the daily happenings in a hometown they haven't lived in for years is another topic altogether that is so bizarre and rampant here that I could write all day about it. I have family and friends who still live in my hometown. I had a fine experience growing up there. Yet, I still can't even fathom being a vocal and active member of my hometown's Facebook pages, deeply caring and opining about what goes on in the day to day existence there.

Back to technology... I always loved looking things up. When I was a kid, it was looking up words in dictionaries and thesauruses. I don't know when I was taught this, but I'm thinking middle school or high school, but you never want to use the same adjectives or nouns twice in a paragraph if you can help it. So, I've always tried to look up similar words so I could diversify my written vocabulary. When I got on the internet, I immediately made Wikipedia and IMDB my best friends. I like to know background and I like to know where on tv or movies I've seen someone before.

If I want to know what time the pool opens in town, I don't go into the town Facebook groups, ask and wait for a response- I look up the town website, click on the pool info and LOOK IT UP. Myself. It's not that hard and it's quicker than waiting for someone to answer me. If I wanted to know when Santa rides on a fire truck around town at night during the holiday season, I'd go to the town Fire Department page and see if there is information there (there is!).

There is a man, probably in his fifties, who plans on running for congress in my county who tried to friend me on social media yesterday. He just decided not to do any research and just blindly friend people. Well, from my own research, I've learned it isn't people, but women, specifically. He didn't even bother to read the public information on any of our pages, he just hit the "friend" button liberally. It would've taken him seconds to read on my page that we have absolutely nothing in common politically. That I wouldn't pee on him if he was on fire, let alone vote for him.

All he did successfully was annoy me with private messages, arguing his political points, and get me to publicly out him as a creep on my own social media. I didn't know who he was before yesterday. Now everyone I know is aware of who he is, and that he's a creeper who doesn't pay attention to glaring details. Glaring details like, with a quick Google search, it's easy to determine that I'm not looking to help him turn Bergen County, NJ into "Trump country". 

My concern is also trust. I've seen people ask questions of peer strangers in Facebook groups they should be asking their DOCTORS. What would make someone trust random strangers for medical information over their own doctors??

Technology is here to help us. Assist. That's great. Helpful. We can get the answers to almost anything we want to know in seconds, WITHOUT asking someone else to basically Google for us. I can't even count how many times someone asked a question in a Facebook group that I Googled the answer and then just posted the link to the answer I found. Why couldn't they do that part on their own. THEN, if there's a question, after reading what they found, that's another story. For instance- instead of asking, "Where can I have my kid's seventh birthday party?", Google places to have kids birthday parties, pick one or a few that sound interesting, and then ask for personal reviews? Before these "groups", you had to do at least a little of the work yourself!

Apparently, technology like Alexa can get Billy Joel playing through the whole house by just a verbal request. If Alexa knows how to filter out fake news from real news, maybe she is the best thing to happen to society instead of being a part of the worst. Whatever Alexa does or doesn't do, be in control of your own knowledge. Don't let it take place of your common sense, and keep you from exercising your brain functions. Don't let it make you inept and lazy. If you can look it up yourself, please, do it! If you can spend a few minutes doing some due diligence, please do that! We have no right to hate on millenials when we're not acting any smarter, more capable, diligent, hard-working, or more mature.

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