Future shock arrives too early

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By Stephen Lega

Many moons ago, I took a sociology class as a student at Western Kentucky University. I don't remember a lot from that class, but I do remember a discussion on culture shock and future shock.

Culture shock occurs when someone finds themselves in a different culture, and the differences between what a person knows and understands and the new culture becomes disorienting to that person.

Future shock is a different kind of disorientation. As new technologies are developed and become more commonplace, the changes can disrupt how a person deals with day-to-day activities.

I'm writing this because, frankly, I didn't expect future shock to be setting in already. I'll be 37 soon, and if I'm being honest, I'm having trouble keeping up.

Admittedly, I've never been someone who needed the latest and greatest technology.

I don't think I owned a CD until years after I saw one.

I got my first cell phone because a friend of mine in Iowa gave me his old model. (He was tired of me not having one. Besides, by that time, cell phone plans were cheap enough that I could get rid of my home phone.)

The only personal computers I owned before I moved to Lebanon were old Macintoshes that I got from a used computer store. (The owner sold them for $30 apiece because he didn't know how to fix them.)

I didn't own a laptop computer until I started working in Marion County.

While I feel like I can understand most of today's technology, I also feel like it's going to leave me behind at any moment.

This feeling comes over me any time I go home to visit my family. My nephew inevitably wants to play video games, and I try to oblige. If he wants to play anything besides the Wii, I'm OK. But if he wants to play Xbox, I can never remember what button does what. Yet, somehow he thinks I'm good at video games.

I have the same problem with universal remote controls. If I'm visiting friends and family and they tell me to find something to watch, I find myself hoping I don't turn off the cable feed.

The same feeling of pending (or should that be impending?) future shock came over me recently. My girlfriend had moved, and she was unpacking her stuff. Trying to be helpful, I asked what I could do. She asked me to set up the entertainment center.

I tried to exude a calm exterior, but I was fearful. I started opening boxes to find wire after wire after wire. (Why are there so many connections on the back of the television? What possible use is there for four separate input devices? Is that connection yellow or white?)

Eventually I decided to stick with what I thought I knew. I hooked up the DVD player and turned it on. Whatever Chipmunks movie was inside could be seen and heard on the screen, so success.

Then I moved on to the Wii. When I finally figured out what went where, I turned it on, and I was able to play Super Mario Brothers 2. (I remember this game from my youth. Perhaps I was trying to make myself feel better with something familiar.)

The TV still worked, and she could watch DVDs and play video games. At this point, I threw in the towel. I didn't know how to connect anything else, and more importantly, I was worried that if I tried, something might explode. OK, I didn't really think anything would explode, but I wasn't about to take any chances.

On the other hand, I did get a new laptop this year, and I was able to replace the operating system all by myself.

So maybe, just maybe, I've still got a few more years before the newfangled gizmos and doohickies leave me behind for good.