Screens are the new parental boogeyman, just like comic books, rock and roll, television, and video games were for previous generations. There’s always something for parents to point at and say “we didn’t have that thing or behave that way when I was a kid, clearly the devil is corrupting our young’uns through this new-fangled thing that frightens me!”
The difference is that if you, as a parent, decide to deprive your kid of comic books, video games, or television, they’ll probably just grow up to resent the fact that they have such a hard time relating to everyone their age due to missing out on the cultural experiences shared by everyone else who grew up with parents who didn’t have sticks up their butts. If you deprive your kid of computers, tablets, and the internet, you’ll probably end up with a kid who not only resents their inability to relate to their generation culturally, you’ll also end up with a kid who’s at a severe professional disadvantage in a future where familiarity and understanding of technology is an increasingly essential skill.
Like an adult just starting to pick up the violin trying to compete with someone who practiced daily since emerging from the womb. These kids who are being shielded from screens are going to get left in the dust.
Streaming Media Subscriptions
I still buy most of the music that I listen to, and I buy blu-rays or DVDs of movies that I like. Sure, I also subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Shudder, but I view those as inherently ephemeral entertainment that I could easily live without (and probably would if I didn’t have a family who use them more than I do).
If I, like any person with good taste who appreciates good cinema may do from time to time, decide one day that I want to watch all five (soon to be six) Tremors movies back-to-back, I don’t want to have to worry about whether I can cobble them together from the particular combination of streaming services I’m subscribed to at the time, or having to pay digital rental fees. I’ll just go to my shelf, grab the discs, and watch them.
If I see a movie I really like on Netflix, I don’t want to have to worry whether in a year, when I get the urge to watch it again, that movie is owned by Disney now and was pulled from Netflix to promote their own competing service that I’m not subscribed to. I just buy the damn movie. And I learned to do it early for the really good ones. Not like $30 fresh-off-the-press new release early, but six months to a year out $8-$10 early. One of my biggest regrets in life is not buying Willow on blu-ray when it was only $10. If you want to buy it now, all you can find are used copies for over a hundred bucks or questionably legal DVDs imported from Korea. I refuse to let another gem slip away from me like that.
I do redeem digital UltraViolet copies when the physical media includes them, but I have yet to actually watch one. I think that just knowing I’m watching an infuriatingly DRM-laden stream would be enough to completely ruin the film for me, no matter what it was. One day when/if I have even more disposable income to flush down my entertainment budget toilet, I’ll get a blu-ray drive that will let me rip my library to a DRM-free digital format myself.
I treat music similarly. I don’t subscribe to Spotify because $10 is practically enough to buy a whole new album every month that I’ll own forever even after Spotify fades into oblivion, which is far more appealing to me. I buy actual CDs and rip them myself, or if the price difference is significant, DRM-free digital copies. On a semi-related note, I pay for YouTube Red because my kids watch an obscene amount of YouTube and I’d rather not have a significant portion of that time be spent watching ads (though the actual content they watch is rarely of much more value than an ad), which means I also get access to the absurdly paywalled “background play” feature of the YouTube Music app. So when I want to discover new music or listen to stuff that I don’t already own, I can always find a playlist on there that fits my mood. Prior to YouTube Music, I just had a list of terrestrial radio internet streams that covered a variety of genres that I could listen to for free on the web or using any streaming audio app off F-Droid.
I deleted my facebook years ago, and I don’t have a Twitter. I don’t even look at Twitter outside of the occasional embedded tweet in whatever news story or blog post I’m reading. I barely even know what Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine even are (were?). Maybe it’s just because I’m an introverted, friendless, anti-social curmudgeon, but it feels fucking good, man. Reading all the shit about the lack of privacy, identity thefts, leaks, dissemination of fake news, shamings, doxings, bullying, and other fucked up stuff that can be so simply avoided by just not using those services makes it a no-brainer for me.
At the same time, I don’t begrudge people who do use those services. I completely understand the need to be connected to friends and family and how easy it is to do that over social networks. I just wish there was an equally easy way to do that which didn’t involve selling your privacy to megacorporations that have no compunctions about profiting off the exploitation and exposure of the intimacies of their users’ data. I also wish more people just fucking cared about their privacy. Nothing is more infuriating than hearing “I have nothing to hide, the convenience is worth it.” Fuck that attitude. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow in Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World but with enough fuckers like that in the world that’s exactly where we’ll be headed.
Digital Home Assistants
Well, let’s see here. A closed-source black box with an always-on microphone (and sometimes camera) in your house with the capability to upload everything it hears and sees to arbitrary destinations on the internet.
Get off mine. You damn kids!