Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Oh To Be a Luddite or The Death of Chivalry

My Second Life Avatar - named after the literary anti-hero Holden Caulfield - has the long straight hair for which I have always wished, and she can fly, a feat of magic and fantasy that has been part of my ethos since I was a child and got lost in DC comics. Every morning before work and every evening as I am closing up the office I check four different email addresses. After checking my email, I check the multiple Jewish dating websites on which my profile is posted, to see if I have been winked at, emailed or "Hot Listed." Some of these sites allow men to randomly troll for me and stalk me, and some are supervised by matchmakers, who no longer have to meet with you or be on the same continent as you in order to propose a match.

Just in case my life wasn't full enough, I now manage my felines' social life, as they have recently received their own profile and email on, a virtual pet community that has grown out of the MySpace concept. Harry and Sarel are able to receive virtual treats, write and share a blog about their life growing up in Jerusalem, and send and receive emails with their furry friends.

"I think, therefore I am" has been replaced with "I Palm Pilot, therefore I exist." If G-d forbid my Palm ever crashed, I am fairly certain that I would wink out of existence. Gone are the days when doctors recorded their day with pen and paper, wrote out hand receipts and kept business records that were good enough for the IRS. My patients can read all about my education , my philosophical approach to Chiropractic, and my techniques on the company website. And the number of hi tech clients I treat for RSI, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and work related injuries grows exponentially.

When I shop on Amazon, the highly evolved Big Brother software immediately recommends a series of books, music, films and DVDs, clothing and electronic equipment, based upon my history of purchases. Most often, their recommendations are completely on target, or it is something I already own.

It scares me and saddens me. This same technology that has created a global community, and has made personal and professional communication move at the speed of a nano-second, has turned this generation and those to come into virtual reality addicts, anti-social couch potatoes who would rather IM, talk on their cell phone, send an SMS and email their network of friends - all at the same time - than actually spend physical time space with their friends and family. No wonder obesity, both childhood and adult, runs rampant anywhere where there is access to an ADSL line.

I can be reached by land line, fax, cell phone, Skype and email 24 hours a day. We human beings have lost our privacy, the luxury of time to mull over a business proposal, and the essential time we need to allow our body and mind to relax. We suffer from Adrenal Overload, as we strive toward more hours per day than the solar system allows.

I especially feel the degradation of social norms in my dating life. The separation of body from mind makes it simple to create a false identity: a man who "appears and feels younger than his chronological age" is actually 60 years old, missing several teeth and has no hair. A man who describes himself as "athletic" or "large boned" actually looks pregnant, as he has neglected his gut for too long. A person who lists his profession as an "environmental manager" is actually a garbage man; if a man writes that he is "exploring his options," he means to say that he is perpetually unemployed. A photo of a man with that movie star smile could have just as easily come from a picture frame he bought at CVS. Most Israeli men want to interview you over the phone, as if you are applying for a job, before they decide that it is even worth buying you a cup of coffee and speaking in person.

But how can you know the truth of a date or the possibility of a relationship, if you do not see each other, talk to each other, enjoy (or not) each other's company? I miss the days when I could go to a party or a meal with friends, meet a new person and converse, feel that chemistry, and with chivalry, be asked out on a proper date.

I cringe when I sound like I am of my grandparents' generation, "Kids these days..." but clearly the virtuality and invasive nature of the World Wide Web threatens the basis of our humanity, that is people experiencing life, and experiencing each other.

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