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My So-Called E-Life

I don’t have TiVo. My DVD player doesn’t work. I don’t even subscribe to HBO. But I have unlimited text messaging on my nifty, new T-Mobile Dash smartphone, which is Windows-based and has built-in WiFi, should I need even faster Internet service when I’m on-the-go (which, often, I am). Although I’m challenged in some areas of modern technology, when it comes to communication devices, I’m totally addicted. (I’ve owned a Treo and two Sidekicks in less than two years.)My life has become so dependent on these communication devices that a malfunction would leave me more frustrated than a single guy who’s hard up. Which is exactly what happened a couple of days ago when my laptop decided to freeze up-my shiny, new, 15-inch MacBook Pro that’s less than six months old. As I waited at the “Genius Bar” (basically, a human help desk) at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue, I felt seriously desperate. How was I going to blog that night? What was I going to do when I got home from work? Then, as if actual human contact had become impossible or obsolete, I remembered I had my smartphone to keep me connected to the outside world. Handheld devices, especially, are the adult version of the Air Jordan. Whipping out the latest mobile phone is like sporting a new pair of Nikes on the playground. But with all this connectedness, are the latest advances in communication making us less communicative? One of the biggest complaints I get when I’m out with friends is that I spend more time text messaging than I do talking to the people who are sitting right in front of me. I remember a time not too long ago-six years to be exact-when everyone I knew started carrying around smaller cell phones as if they were the new essential accessory. I was adamantly against this new trend. “You will never see me with that thing,” I once said to a couple of girlfriends who were chatting away on their cells, simultaneously, while I sat in silence at dinner. When the relationship I was in at the time ended, I fought hard against the urge to get a petite phone of my own, but I eventually caved. Not because I was trying to fit in, but because I felt I actually needed one to stay in touch. I’ve been an addict ever since. Truthfully, I’m not much of a phone talker. In fact, the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is gab on my cell phone; I’ve given up my land line all together. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but text messaging and e-mailing is so much easier, albeit more passive. I’d much rather compose a witty e-mail or text to let someone know I’m thinking about him or her than simply hit speed dial. I realize this isn’t exactly old-fashioned, and a lot gets lost in translation. Half of the arguments I get into with friends are due to a misread tone in an e-mail. But texting and e-mailing have become viable tools for singles juggling multiple romantic interests, or just for reaching out to someone in moments of neediness. Some guys I know even use the mass-texting option when looking for a late-night booty call. (OK, I’ve used that function myself to hook up for plans.) But there has to be some etiquette involved, even if the old rules no longer apply. Is it OK to thank someone for a date via text or e-mail? Is it OK to ask someone out that way? Heck, I can’t even meet someone without running to my computer to google him to see if he’s committed a crime or-preferably-to find a photo of him on his company’s website. As I’m blogging, I’m also reading about Apple’s new iPhone that Steve Jobs introduced at San Francisco’s Macworld conference on Tuesday. Have I made a mistake? Should I have held out until June for the latest mother of all mobile devices? Like dating, when the options are endless-and always improving-the decision to commit becomes nearly impossible.

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