December 12, 2013
As I mentioned last week, eldest child and yours truly escaped from reality to the movie theater Thanksgiving evening. What I didn’t mention was the cartoon preview just before the movie started that requested patrons to not only turn off cell phones and cut the chatter but please report any suspicious behavior.
Instantly, my mind latched on to the Colorado movie theater shootings that took the lives of 12 and wounded 70. That night changed lives and business forever as was evident with the advice to be aware. Be aware of your surroundings, said the little purple-pinkish cartoon blob-person bouncing along the screen, know your exits.
Is that guy five rows ahead really going to the restroom?
Okay, the blob-person really didn’t say the latter but now I was worried if such nonchalant business as the stranger one seat over was leaving for a box of Jujyfruits at the snack bar or to retrieve a gun from the back seat of their car.
If not for the pre-movie warning, I more than likely would have never noticed such activities. Certainly not the lanky gentleman three rows ahead who left his seat three times during the two and half hour movie. Or the fact he returned empty handed each time with eventual speculation he had the world’s smallest bladder.
No frets, dear sir, my bladder instantly ages 50 years at the mere mention of a drive-in.
No, in a pre-Colorado time I would have been oblivious to someone getting up from their seat during a movie, much as the steady rumbles of traffic outside the first home I ever owned and located only 50 feet from a busy state route became white noise. After a period of time, and many sleepless nights, of course.
I was reminded of this odd acclimation, pre-oblivion state of mind, and white noise when Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos announced a wanton desire for a fleet of drones to deliver every imaginable product to his customers. At first blush this sounded like a great idea —science fiction becoming reality— with little thought on the negatives. Surely, anything bad would be a good trade-off for technological prosperity?
Maybe not so much.
We tend to get used to things, like the drone of traffic or feeling safe at the movie theater, it all becomes white noise. So the utilization of drones to deliver everything from a paperback to a pizza, we’d get used to it. But what about Big Brother deciding to take advantage of our accustoming to white noise? What if they move well beyond snooping into our email and cell phones? When they ask, what’s another drone, will we balk or will the sound of drone delivery mixed with being spied upon be met with a shrug, maybe even accolades?
My Social Problems professor challenged us recently to this very notion, asking students to not only look at what technology has done for us but what it has done to us. Her emphasis was on how the digital divide has created a split between the haves and the have nots but there’s more. There’s the continued loss of privacy and further distrust between members of society. And it seems, upon further study, we are but one white noise away from being out of a job. We may even be one former white noise away from being arrested should someone think our decision to buy a bad hot dog in the theater lobby in the middle of a movie is seen as suspicious.
I feel conflicted in some ways, perhaps even dated, I greet technology potentials with paranoia on one hand but dislike the paranoia created by a cartoon blob on the movie screen on another. I mean, was I supposed to report the gentleman with the world’s smallest bladder —at the request of the movie theater— or point a finger while shouting, what else, send in the drones?!
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-itis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.