EDITORIAL: To connect or not to connect

These days, it might be more cool to not have a smart phone

Mike de Jong is a Renaissance man. In an odd, back-to-the-future kind of way.

The provincial finance minister does not have a smart phone. He does not correspond by e-mail. Because it’s government, he has people for all that. If there’s a call he has to take, some well-paid aide will foist a phone in front of him. If there’s an e-mail that needs his attention, another member of the taxpayer-funded army will provide him with a printed version.

We envy de Jong. Our job is to gather information from various sources and publish it for a wider audience. We could not do that without e-mail and smart phones.

We recall a time in newspapers before e-mail and widespread connectivity in general. Truth be told, newspapers thrived in that time. We had typesetters and proofers and politically-incorrect-sounding jobs like copy boy.

Many jobs went by the wayside with the advent of technology in newspaper offices, much like they did in other industries. And the ability to gather more information more quickly has not been a boon for newspapers, dailies anyway.

(One thing technology has done to improve newspapers: no more chemical waste dumps that were maskerading as darkrooms for developing film and making prints.)

Society as a whole, it must be said, survived just fine without e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. You could argue these technologies have downgraded our society — so many people post so many rude things they never would say to someone in person. The negative and nasty is now out there for all to see. This is progress?

Same can be said for government. Does anyone believe governments have operated more efficiently because of all this connectivity?

Certainly education — the pursuit and sharing of knowledge — has been enhanced by the digital age, although it has also been clogged by Internet junk science. Health care too — a knee surgeon in Victoria, for example, can look at your x-ray minutes after it was taken in Parksville.

Still, we envy de Jong and salute his stance. For so many years, having the latest technology, the latest phone, was cool.

The new cool, as evidenced by de Jong, is having no phone at all. Mind you, not all of us have ‘people’ for that.

— Editorial by John Harding