Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Do you remember your mom's phone number?

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
October 1, 2012 -- Updated 0213 GMT (1013 HKT)
LZ Granderson wonders if we've been rendered a bit helpless by our technological advancements.
LZ Granderson wonders if we've been rendered a bit helpless by our technological advancements.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: I hadn't manually turned off TV in years
  • Granderson: I suspect technology has turned us into automated idiot savants
  • He asks how many people can dial their loved ones' phone number from memory?
  • Granderson: Technology has gone from assisting us in our lives to taking over our lives

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

(CNN) -- It was late, the football game was over, and I was ready for bed. The problem was, I couldn't find the remote control.

It wasn't right next to me on the couch in my hotel room and I was too lazy -- or drunk -- to dig between the cushions to look for it. So after a couple of glances, I decided to just turn the TV off manually and worry about finding the remote in the morning.

I slid my hand down the sides, ran my fingers across the top, bent down and looked along the bottom and even tried tapping the screen, as if it were a 48" iPad.

Nothing.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson
Evolution of the mobile phone
A day with a smart phone as a wallet
Apple's map hiccups

Now, again -- I had been drinking. But I don't think Jack and Cokes were the reasons why I had no idea how to turn the TV off. As I was fumbling around looking for something that looked like a power button, it dawned on me: I hadn't manually turned off a television in years.

Eventually I grew tired of looking and decided to just unplug the damn thing and take my drunken self to bed.

And this is what technology has turned me and I suspect many Americans into: Automated idiot savants.

Tell me, how many people with smartphones actually know their boyfriend's or girlfriend's telephone number and can dial it from memory? I've been with my partner for three years and after the area code, I couldn't tell you a single digit that's in his number. We met one night, exchanged numbers and I haven't dialed it since.

Special series: Our mobile society

Funny -- I used to joke that if I ever lost all of the contacts backed up on my computer, I wouldn't be able to call my own mama. Now I realize that I really wasn't joking. I don't know my mama's number.

Not only that, I don't know her address either.

I know where she lives, but if I was suddenly cut off from all technology, I would have to get in my car and drive three hours just to say "hi."

All of which brings me to this: For all of the wonderful conveniences technology has brought into our lives, there is something to be said about all of the little things that have been lost because of these advancements as well.

Like knowing by heart the telephone numbers of the people we care about.

Stopping in a gas station and asking another human being for directions.

Going to a record store.

I can remember spending hours with my high school friends roaming the Harmony House record store in downtown Detroit. The first 45 I ever bought was Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," and I can remember my black friends teasing me for liking "white people's music."

Now, I am sure on some level I am simply romanticizing life before Steve Jobs. I am not against the technological progress we've made -- I'm just trying to put it into context.

Technology can deliver a song faster to us, but there are some things in life that can't be rushed.

To this day, I still think "Wanted Dead or Alive" is one of the greatest songs of all time. But more importantly, the interaction that came from purchasing that song as well as other conversations that occurred in that store over the years helped shape me into the person I am today.

You know, my son hates it when I tell him to grab a dictionary whenever he asks me how to spell a word he can't figure out with spellcheck. "Dad, just tell me," he would say. And I would say, "No, otherwise you won't learn."

Don't get me wrong, spell-check's a great tool, and I use it. But it pays to know the long way in case you can't take the shortcut.

I have seen my penmanship become increasingly illegible over the past 20 years because despite being a writer, I don't really write. I type. And so over time, using a keyboard exclusively has led to a degree of atrophy in my writing hand. Now I can barely get through handwriting a personal note in a greeting card before noticing a little pain or soreness.

Some people may wonder what all the fuss is about. It's no big deal that I don't know by heart my loved ones' phone numbers, as long as I have them programmed in my phone. Right? It's easy and convenient and efficient. I guess I'm wondering if technology has gone from assisting us in our lives to taking over our lives.

In a recent Vodaphone survey, 54% of the responders said it was OK to pick up the phone while out to dinner and 57% said they'd pick it up while going to the bathroom. But the thing that really got me is that 33% thinks it's OK to pick up their cell phone during sex.

SEX!!??!!

That's when I think this whole technology take over goes from being funny to a bit sad. (Unless they're taking pictures ... in which case I say, carry on.)

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT