Nov. 24, 2020
By DOROTHY LIPOVENKO
Hello, bonjour, Wilma Flintstine here.
Name sound familiar? Distant cousins have a long-running TV show. The one with the dinosaur that vacuums.
Our side of the family has been Flintstine for millennia, narrowly escaping a name change when the family tool business went public in the Iron Age. The underwriter, Morgan Stonely, argued that Flint would be an easier sell on the IPO road show, upsetting the older directors. Legend has it the founder’s granddaughter, Rockel, cast the deciding ballot for keeping tradition, and was named Flintstine’s first female CEO in 1000 BCE.
The media promptly crowned her “The New Millennium’s New Power Tool.” Sales exploded, and short sellers in the company’s stock lost their togas. One sore loser publicly groused women should stick to their looms running a shmatta business.
But traders who bet on her liked to say Rockel had a man’s head on a woman’s shoulders.
Soon enough, her success attracted the wrong attention. But not for long; outraged women shareholders sent corporate raiders fleeing in an uprising famously known as Balabustas at the Gate.
Fast forward 3,000 years: Flintstine Industries cycled through numerous incarnations and eventually was gobbled up by some entity. The family yichus is nice as pedigrees go, but makes no difference when the 21st century is moving on without me.
True, my house, built in 1895, has running water and a flush toilet, but such modern conveniences I can get behind. I don’t have a cell phone (and I’m in good company on this one with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards); my refusal to open a Facebook account is a bigger headache for Mark Zuckerberg than his company’s data breaches. Birds tweet, not me; Instagram I initially mistook for an itty-bitty unit of measurement.
So how much longer can one hold out against the forces of technology? Is resistance futile? Or is resistance masking an attitude problem?
Answers: Don’t know. Probably. Maybe.
But does my living off the digital grid interest sociologists? No. Seems every week there’s new research on the impact social media is having, or wreaking havoc, on human behaviour.
Aside from spawning depression, loneliness and the latest bugaboo – cancel culture – the laundry list reads like Yom Kippur’s confessional rap sheet: Envy, mockery, indulgence, boastfulness, shaming, resentment, anger.
My favourite is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but of what, exactly? Even toddlers, once thrilled to flush toys down a toilet and watch the bathroom flood, are now hunched over digital screens like middle-aged accountants. Kinderlach, where’s the mischief?
Is it too late to curb the appetite for social media? Yes, because so many are hooked on popping virtually into kitchens and closets around the corner and around the world, obsessing that everyone else seems to be living a better life.
But look no further than social distancing for the real shakeup in personal behaviour. And it’s not limited to six feet of empty space between you and the next customer in the checkout aisle.
Social distancing was not invented during this pandemic.
On a personal level, we decide with whom we want to socialize, who our children can play with, who merits our time and attention, who gets to join our book clubs and social cliques. We may distance ourselves from people who don’t share our values, and we gravitate to the influential. Political differences, once the stuff of lively debate over coffee, have grown elbows sharp enough to bruise friendships, or turn newcomers away.
At some point, COVID will be over and we can happily return to standing next to someone at the supermarket without worrying whether we’ll catch something. Perhaps we’ll also learn to narrow other types of self-imposed distances.
Dorothy Lipovenko is a former newspaper reporter who lives in Montreal, where she can be reached on a landline phone. She can be found in the kitchen, not on Facebook.