I actually started out writing about this topic before and got sidetracked into how we learned to drive back in 1975. So the first couple of paragraphs will be similar, but I’m not going to talk about driving much at all. The basic point about driving and technology was that in the low-tech “olden days” you had the freedom to go anywhere you wanted because nobody was tracking you with GPS devices, etc. Hell, they didn’t even have cameras on the roads back in those days, and the best anyone could do was check your odometer (assuming it worked, and that was pretty easily remedied if you were inclined to!) The downside was that there was no Uber or Lyft, and if you were out partying you damned well better have great DUI skills because that was the only way you were getting home. (I’m contemplating that essay right now, but my thoughts on that topic will piss a lot of people off in the high-tech era!)
That said, I’m actually quite grateful to have grown up in what were really two distinct technological eras. The reason for that is that both eras have allowed me a great deal of freedom though in considerably different ways. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a freedom lover, and I’m going to do my best in any era to have as much freedom and fun as humanly possible! I’m also kind of a Taoist at heart, and there is always going to be a balance between the positives and negatives of any given thing or situation, and technology is certainly no exception to that.
Of course human technology has always been advancing, and things were obviously different between birth and death for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but the rate of technological acceleration seems to have gone off the charts in my lifetime. I’m amazed at certain things, and I’ve probably said to at least 1,000 people that if you had told me when I was 25 that I would be able to hold a tool in my hand (as I wave my iPhone around) that can access almost all of the world’s knowledge and communicate with over a billion people via the spoken word, the written word, photography, video, music, and ALL PRETTY MUCH SIMULTANEOUSLY, I would have thought you were crazy. And all of this for under $1,000 and about $50/month. Wow…Talk about freedom!
The interesting thing about the technology of the 1960s-2000 and 2000-present is to me the way it has impacted the amount and types of freedom I’ve experienced in my life. Back in the “old days” of the pre-PC era, there was a great deal more personal freedom in many ways because nobody could “track” you, and there was no digital history of what you were doing. It’s been said that once something is online it lives forever, and I think that’s going to be pretty much true until the world as we know it ends or changes in some very drastic way. On the other hand, the ability for immediate personal expression and connection to virtually half the people on the planet is a hugely liberating thing that gives even a lone individual degrees of freedom nobody could have imagined before the modern technological era.
When I was growing up in the low-tech era, there was so much anonymity that I could easily afford to have a WTF attitude and take more risks in a variety of ways. You could get drunk and say whatever the hell you wanted, and the only people who knew about it were your friends and other people who were actually physically present. And if you were at a party or a bar where more off-the-cuff conversation and behavior were likely to happen, chances are that the others in the room were in a similar state and would either laugh at or join in any stupidity you might exhibit, or at least wouldn’t remember it very clearly the next day! Hell—even if you offended 100 people (and most of them probably wouldn’t even know your name), in a week or two all would be forgotten and perhaps most importantly, THERE WERE NO CAMERAS IN EVERYBODY’S POCKETS AND HANDS to provide a permanent record of any stupidity you may have committed. Not to mention, there was no internet to post it on so that your stupidity (or even just outside-the-box self-expression) could INSTANTLY BECOME VISIBLE TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FOREVER.
The worst that could happen in the “olden days” was that a small circle of your friends would remember “the X story” and every once in a while you would have to hear something like: “remember when Eric said or did such-and-such to so-and-so, and the other person did this or that?” And everyone in the room might re-live a laugh at your expense, but that would be the extent of it. Hell—My attitude was and is so WTF I actually enjoy making other people laugh, even if it is at “my expense.” I’ve told some of those stories here, and I want you to get a charge out of them and think, “that dude is kind of crazy—I would never say or do that!” (But I’ll bet some of you wish you had—Hahahaha!)
Now think about the old days relative to the all-knowing modern era for a minute. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard stories of people who did one thing that wasn’t necessarily even “wrong” in everyone’s eyes had their entire lives negatively impacted by one foolish moment or even worse, a false accusation. I have a friend whose son was falsely accused of something sexually inappropriate by a crazy young woman who has accused at least 4 others (that I know of!) because she likes the attention of being a public “victim.” He was temporarily banished from his college campus and only his parents spending over $50K on a really good lawyer got him back in school. And he went through a shit ton of emotional trauma that he didn’t deserve and could negatively impact his psyche for life. If something like that had happened to me at age 18, I sure as hell wouldn’t have had my WTF attitude and nearly as much fun in life!
Now I’m certainly not saying that all accusations are false (but I know this one was—I’ve seen the digital evidence!), and there has already been a ton of stuff written about this topic online, but think about how modern technology has negatively impacted one’s propensity to take a chance and have a WTF attitude if you don’t even have to actually do something for someone else to say you did in front of THE ENTIRE PLANET. That’s a little scary to me. If a future employer can “Google” your name and find out about something foolish, wild, or a little “outside the box” (or untrue!) decades later and not hire you, I would say that definitely inhibits one’s freedom to take some risks and enjoy life to the fullest. Fortunately, a lot of people are actually human and regularly say WTF anyway. Modern technology just makes the risk that much greater.
Another area that has been impacted by modern technology for both good and for ill is creative license. The propensity for good in the high-tech era can be found in the freedom to create whatever the hell you want and make it available to the world on a moment’s notice. Back in the old days, to make a video, record a song, or write a book and make it publicly available took a huge amount of time and money, which meant that corporate interests tended to exercise much more control over the creative process. And you generally couldn’t get it done without a pile of money! Although this was the case, corporate interests like record companies, etc. really didn’t care about the content itself as long as it sold and made them money. In a way, this gave the artists a lot of creative freedom to say WTF, because they knew their audiences and what they liked. And the old cigar-chomper guys in the office didn’t really look too closely at the creative content while they counted their coin…
Of course there were certainly do-gooder censorship types who would raise a stink in the local media or in Congress once in a while (anyone remember Al’s wife Tipper Gore trying to rate/censor “obscene, violent, sexist, insert your evil adjective here rock music in the mid-1980s?). My idol Frank Zappa actually went in front of Congress during the hearings for Tipper’s bill (and she wasn’t even a legislator, but her husband was a senator, so I guess that was close enough to censor rock ‘n’ roll!) But the end result of this was kind of ho-hum, and a few heavy metal albums were rated as “nasty” in some form. Sure, some parents probably became more aware of what their kids were listening to, but most parents in that era didn’t like rock music so they would pretty much ignore it. Mine sure did even though I played it constantly.
Here are a couple of songs with lyrics by a couple of my favorite artists that were released in 1968 and 1978 respectively. The first one is the Rolling Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues.” The gist of it is that the protagonist Mick Jagger is trying to entice a 15-year-old girl and her friend to “come upstairs” to his room for some wild sex. In the live version of the song, Mick changes the girl’s age from 15 to 13. Somehow I can’t see this happening today without a huge amount of instant outrage on social media, etc… (On second thought, perhaps all those wealthy executives and powerful politicians who hung out with Jeffery Epstein on his “kiddie island” might not object to it. Or to Hitlery killing him either–But I digress…)
The second song is Frank Zappa’s “Bobby Brown,” and the gist of this song is that some arrogant jock dude (Bobby Brown) “fucks this dyke” who cuts of his balls and turns him into a “homo.” FYI—I bought the Rolling Stones’ record when I was about 15 and the Zappa record when I was 17 or 18. Ahhh…The creative freedom of the ancient age when nobody was the wiser… Have a listen if you dare. But be prepared to be “offended” even though the song is intended as a complete satire on arrogant Joe Jockstraps, who are certainly a safe target these days–Hahaha! Hell–I even played this song in front of audiences a few times in a band…
Now, I’m not of fan of most modern music (mostly because they play it with computers instead of real humans creating a real groove with real instruments, but hey—I’m an old guy who used to play actual instruments…), and I’m guessing that equally nasty lyrics abound and you can find songs like that on the internet. But, much like the person who holds back from saying something “offensive” or having a WTF attitude, I think that the threat of instant backlash on the internet is going to create a lot of self-censorship even as the songs are being written, particularly if the goal is to sell as much music as possible in whatever format they sell music in these days (digital downloads?)
I’m guessing this self-censorship is similar to the person at the party who doesn’t want to take a risk because everyone has a device connected to the internet, and one mistake could ruin a career or at least one’s social life. I think this is especially true in the current PC era where every snowflake wants to have their 15 seconds of fame on the internet signaling their virtue and being “offended” by something racist, sexist, misogynist, ad infinitum, ad absurdum… Feel free in the comments to point out that I’m completely wrong though. I would love to hear some edgy new stuff very soon!
And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for—Dating in the low-tech and high-tech eras! The first (and rather obvious) thing I must point out is that the advent of modern technology did not eliminate the old school ways of dating and mating in any way, shape or form. The great news is that even with Match, Tinder, Bumble, Fumble (yeah, I THINK I’m kidding on the last one—Hahaha!) and 100 other dating sites and apps, you can still meet new people the old-fashioned ways at work, at bars, on the dance floor (one of my faves!), in a store, anywhere else in person, or being “fixed up” by a mutual friend (how I met my last girlfriend Sherry if you read our stories in “Imagine”). So technology hasn’t really detracted from the dating scene at all but only added to it.
I’ve done my fair share of dating over the recent years when I was single, and I’ve met fun, interesting, beautiful women in both low-tech and high-tech ways. They both seem to work pretty well. Obviously, the advantage to low-tech is that you usually meet in person first, so you already know if there is a physical attraction at least. Photos online aren’t always accurate (often by design, and I worked in advertising so I ought to know!), and people can spend a lot of time tweaking their profile so they sound more attractive than they really are.
On the other hand, the high-tech method of meeting potential dates is that you literally have the opportunity to meet 1,000 times more people than you would just going about your day, and you can pre-screen people based on 50 different characteristics. I was always very open-minded in terms of age, race, occupation and stuff like that, but I did prefer women who were really into good music or had other common interests like hiking and the gym. Even though you won’t hit it off with the majority of on-line dates, I liked the social WTF nature of meeting new (and potentially “strange”–Hahaha!) women for happy hour (always my first option!) I can say that many people tend to overthink this aspect of things in terms of putting too much emphasis on what a person’s online profile says. Live a little and just say WTF, for Chrissakes! Life is short–What have you got to lose by taking a chance and meeting someone new?
OK—You asked for it. Below are a few G-rated photos of some of the interesting and beautiful women I was lucky enough to meet using both low-tech and high-tech realities in recent years. But I’ve gotten plenty of X-rated ones over the years too which I never once asked for. (I certainly love a woman who shares my WTF attitude in the modern era! But I won’t post them–Scout’s honor…) So now you know why I’m damned grateful for living in both eras. Talk about the best of both worlds! And thank you very much ladies for saying WTF and wanting to meet me. I really enjoyed your company on a date at the very least and sometimes we hit it off! What more can a guy ask from life?
And if you’ve made it to the end, I’ll point out that with only two exceptions all of these women are all in my age bracket (around 50). (And if you try to guess which ones, you’ll probably guess wrong!) I can honestly say that I felt so lucky to have experienced the “dating life” in the modern era with so many sweet, fun, beautiful women my age. And since I was no longer a boy or somewhat clueless young man, I had the time of my life and I think all of the girls enjoyed themselves hanging out with me. At least I hope so because the real beauty of the man/woman thing for me as a straight guy was the yin/yang vibe of hanging out with awesome girls and simply enjoying some time and life together. (Disclaimer: To each his or her own and no judgement express or implied regarding the sexual preferences of others–Hahaha!!)