Tag Archives: tech fail

pop phone home ©alexandrawroteIf at one in the morning you call your own phone number to check your voicemail, it’s a really good idea to make sure you dial carefully. Because that series of numbers must remain in a specific order. Area code, too. After the fifth ring and no voicemail pickup, you might realize your mistake and consider blocking that number. I totally would did.

Except I could not remember the last time I blocked a number, it may have been a decade ago, and after trying to figure this out I learned that digital phone service is annoying and that technology sometimes complicates things that it was supposed to simplify.

I mean, if it weren’t for caller ID, no one would know who that idiot was who was calling at one in the morning. (Have you ever thought about giving up caller ID? Sometimes the idea of returning to a time when we simply picked up the phone on the initial ring seems nice. But who picks up on the first ring? It has become a reflex that the phone is not looked at until the second ring when the window appears telling us who is calling. And when we answer, knowing who is on the other end before saying hello – it’s like a small glimpse into what life must be like for the Long Island Medium.)

And yet, at a quarter after one in the morning, I am not in possession of any psychic powers. Andthat caller block thing isn’t working. Customer service seems the only option because at that late hour actually blocking the number is less important than figuring out why the system won’t let me. Why is it that things that bother you at one in the morning do not bother you at one in the afternoon? What is that about?

The More You Know: If customer service by phone is bad, Live Chat customer service is a strange form of torture where bad service is not only tedious and frustrating but stares back at you in 12-point font. Taunting me as I watch the blinking sign that says “The Live Chat representative is typing…”

I am not sure if it is the distance between Los Angeles and the call center somewhere across the globe, but while the blinking sign tells me they’re typing, enough time passes to write a short essay.

I’m not a patient person.

When the Live Chat employee confides that he really has no idea what to do since the software is created by someone else and they don’t know how it works, he tells me to try blocking the call in the morning because sometimes the system “just has problems.” I wonder how to reply when he then types  “I’m so happy to have been able to help you with your issue. Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Resist the urge to type “Not only haven’t you helped me, but one in the morning is really more tonight than today, don’t you think?” Or at least delete it and don’t send it.

After the chat window closed, I try once more to block the call. Because I was annoyed and tired. And it worked. I have no idea why, but it did. The funny thing was I no longer cared if that stranger called. I doubted they ever would. I went to bed wondering if they/I/we could possibly make life more complicated, realizing that’s precisely one of the biggest problems of the 21st century: this idea that we’re being more efficient when, in fact, we aren’t.

Sometimes simply turning something off and then turning it on again is the way to get things done. Sometimes we should turn it off and simply walk away.

And in the morning, when they the emailed transcript of the Live Chat they said they were sending didn’t arrive, I smiled. I’m not a psychic but I kind of expected that. Efficient? No. Consistent? Absolutely.


I was on a plane the other day, settling in to watch a film, when I noticed they had a few TED talks available. With my current desire to soak up all I can about understanding the good and bad all these screens are bringing into my life, I decided The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel could wait twenty minutes while I watched Sherry Turkle’s “Connected, But Alone?” lecture.

I like Turkle’s approach, as she explained last year on The Colbert Report (she referenced the interview in the TED talk), “I love technology. It has it’s place. I teach at MIT… but we have to put technology in its place. And, I kind of think, we’re losing the balance.”

Turkle’s words mirror a lot of thoughts I’ve been having. This disconnect in the way we connect. The deceptive ways we think we’re closer when we’re really further apart.

Lately, I’ve been a bit surprised when friends, close friends, share important news solely via their Facebook Wall. If I don’t visit Facebook on a particular day, I might miss big news. And the fact is, most of the time, once upon a time, we’d call a few dozen people to share what we now broadcast to hundreds. Some whom we really don’t know at all.

I’m about to read Turkle’s book. I’m not bothering to post that to Good Reads right now. I’m not quite as good about keeping up there as I once was. So, please forgive the dust.

I joined Good Reads in 2007. Take a voracious reader with a thing for making lists, and well, Good Reads was my kind of place. I recently logged in for the first time in quite awhile and found myself editing and updating, but I stopped myself. I was organizing lists of what I’d read when I could have used that time to, you know, read. I logged out and picked up the book I was in the midst of.

I like Turkle’s ideas. She doesn’t want to give up new technology. She just wants technology to be “put in its place.”

Colbert shot back, “That’s not what our technology does. You’ve got to cut the apron strings and soar, baby. Because right now, everything is changing so fast, that if you step back and you figure well, is this good or is that good, you won’t have the latest iPhone. And then, what is there to live for?”

We are moving so incredibly fast. We are constantly on. And by on, I don’t only mean just the electronics but us.  It reminded me of what Turkle says about our online connections really being performances. Performing isn’t a bad thing, and I think many do so in earnest. I hope most do.

Even Good Reads feels a bit pretentious sometimes. We are judging books by virtual covers. My opinion of you will not be less if you adore Dan Brown over Dostoevsky. I swear.

I cherish the friends with whom I regularly share in person, by phone, even chatting online but one on one – we are talking to one another. We’re not on. We’re in the moment. Moments are priceless.

Here’s Turkle’s Colbert interview and the TED talk. I’ll let you know about her book. But I can’t guarantee I’ll get around to rating it on Good Reads.


TED Talk: Connected, but alone?