Neophiliacs tend to chase the new at all costs. Neophobes—also known as fuddy-duddies—tend to avoid it.
A new post on Arts and Letters Daily, reviewing a book about technological innovation has set me puzzling this morning. Am I a neophobe or a neophile? It also called to mind an earlier article of interest about style. And much more.
I am still reading books on paper; the bells and whistles on my cell phone are disregarded as long as I can make a simple outgoing call; I don’t own an EBook, an IPod, a Wii, or a laptop computer; and I manage to drive from point A to point B without a GPS system. I look back with nostalgia on the Singer sewing machine I purchased in 1962, with a few simple attatchments and a lovely little table with a knee lift that it folded back into. Although I now own a wonderfully complex computerized machine, I use very few of its expensive features. Even this machine is now obsolete. But then probably so am I. I still prefer to sew buttons on by hand, and to embroider in an armchair, using a thimble with my needle and thread. My old Singer would be just fine for everything else.
But I do use a microwave and a modern washer and dryer… I remember how my mother resisted them as unhygienic, dangerous, extravagant, unnecessary. She also never learned to drive. Am I as far behind the new technology as she was behind hers? I hope not!
I see that my grand daughters now give power point presentations in class, instead of the time honoured bristol board displays I assigned; and “research and library skills” have been replaced by online searches. No one needs to know how to use the Dewey Decimal System anymore, let alone an alphabetical index. Cursive penmanship has been dropped in many schools. My son and daughter-in law tell me that the two hour university exam with three long essay answers chosen from a menu of ten questions is no longer used. The students can’t, physically can’t, write fast enough; and we know that writing by hand or typing is very different from word-processing. Writing by hand reveals not only the content of your writing, but the process of your thinking. You can’t edit as you go along, spell check, rearrange paragraphs, precis a long winded passage. You have to be more organized in your thinking, precise, concise, and accurate! Ah, the “good old days”!
My relationship with new technology has always been tenuous at best. I moved reluctantly from vinyl records to eight-track just as cassette technology was moving in. When my last cassette player died, I was forced to move to CDs. We bought Beta before it was trounced by VHS, and now my VHS collection is obsolete although the old tape player is still hanging in there. What DVD’s I own are probably on their way out also… the library now has something called Blu-ray that I cannot use. Perhaps I am so disappointed with television because I have not moved along to new programing options about time shifting and video-on-demand, or whatever.
I do not understand the new fashions at all!? Out shopping, at meetings, on television (even the broadcasters) I see other women and I wonder. What happened to well tailored clothes that fit? What happened to modesty and femininity and style!? What happened to our common-sense feminist rebellion against high heeled shoes, knee high boots that cut off circulation to our feet, too short skirts and too tight sweaters? Why do modern women wear T shirts that reveal ample cleavage and bare skin bulging where the waistline should be? Why does the layered look suggest that they don’t know how to tuck in their underwear? And plastic sandals or running shoes, ugly beat up running shoes?
I do not want to be a reactionary old fogey, behind the times, nostalgic for the simplicity or security of a past I understood better or appreciated more. I am alert enough, informed enough, clever enough to keep up with the trends, but I often don’t want to!
So I feel challenged by the question… neophile or neophobe?
Which am I?
Which are you?