Column – A step forward and a step back

Column from Gazette reporter Craig Lindsay from the June 11 paper.

I remember when I was young lad, we used to go outside and play in the streets. We played games like kick the can and street hockey and hide and seek. It was a simpler time. When our parents wanted us to come in they’d just yell out the front door.

I can still hear my dad’s booming voice, calling my name from the front door. It didn’t matter where I was—I heard and I made sure I was home within a few minutes.

I’m sure kids today still play outside occasionally. But now they’re much more likely to be involved in some kind of organized sports league or community group.

I mean that’s all good and fine. I played minor hockey and was in boy scouts and that was a few times a week. But these kids today are booked up solid from after school until late in the evening every day of the week. Parents have to coordinate schedules and when and where to pick up little Jimmy and little Jenny.

And now kids are getting cell phones at younger and younger ages. Instead of my dad shouting at me to get my butt in the house for dinner, he probably would’ve just text messaged me.

Of course cell phones aren’t just for phoning and messaging. Today’s phones are multi-media devices, hundreds of times more powerful than the computers we had when I went to university.

Now people get in touch using Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Foursquare and before that MySpace.

Sure, this new technology has made keeping in touch with old friends and family a breeze, but at what cost?

Do you really need to know what your second cousin had for dinner or what your college buddy favourite TV show is?

What happens when we gather for a drink at the local public house or restaurant for a nice meal? Everyone starts staring into their phones.

How soon until face to face communication is completely lost?

That said, I do appreciate having next week’s weather, movie times, or sports scores at my ready.

I also like to occasionally play games like Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga.

What I can’t stand, I mean, really can’t stand, is having to deal with so many passwords.

I use a password to get into my phone; another one to get into my computer at home and at work; and another for my bank accounts, sports sites, emails, phone bill, cable bill, and so on. This is ridiculous.

When you sign up for an app like Facebook or Skype or Twitter, you need to register. So you go through the process of putting down your name, address, phone number, date of birth, email (don’t forget that password) and so on.

Same with any computer or video game you want to play nowadays. Want to play the new Watch Dogs? You already paid the $60 for the game? Great, but now you have to sign up for a uPlay passport so you can go online and check your scores against someone you’ve never heard of in Pittsburgh.

Probably worse is when you log out and try to sign up again for an account you haven’t used in awhile. Hmmm, you think, was that my usual password? Or the version with my dog’s maiden name? And now passwords are getting more and more complicated. Now you usually need an upper case letter, a number and probably the batman logo.

Not to mention many programs will lock you out after a few tries. So that’s fun. Do you take a chance on the fifth and final try? Or try and remember where you wrote that password down or where you saved it? And if you don’t get locked out you’ll at least get the always fun Captcha word. Good luck figuring that out.

I, for one, yearn for simpler times. In fact I think I’ll go for a walk now. Although it does look kind of hot outside and there’s lots of bugs. I wonder what Siri has to say?

Grand Forks Gazette