When the elders described their lives, they focused not on their declining abilities but on things that they could still do and that they found rewarding. As Ms. Wong said, “I try not to think about bad things. It’s not good for old people to complain.”
Here was another perspective on getting old. It was also a lesson for those who are not there yet.
Among the many paradoxes of life in the tech-obsessed 21st century is the fact that we sometimes find ourselves yearning for an outdated simplicity precisely because we’re so tied to innovations in entertainment and social media that constantly hold our attention. For this reason there’s a market for “digital detoxes” and “tech-free vacations,” expensive ways of “unplugging” us and separating us from our tech. We even have software that prevents us from accessing “online distractions.”
This is also a curious paradox of capitalism, the idea that we’re willing to pay someone to draw us away from something we desperately want. It suggests a form of acquiescence or powerlessness that perhaps we’re too ready to embrace.
Yes, the written word has been in decline since the advent of film and then television, though recent technological change has undoubtedly hastened its fall. But this has led many to assume that the problem is one of form, that if the book could adapt to our multi-screen age, its cultural retreat would end. This optimistically assumes that the decline is reversible, which it isn’t. Books were overtaken by other media decades ago. The problem isn’t that books don’t have enough television in them, or enough internet in them; it’s that they are just one form of readily available cultural consumption among so many.
The offbeat anecdote tickled readers, not only for the story itself but even more so for its rendition in West African Pidgin English, an informal language that dates from the slave trade and that mixes English with West African languages. It was, according to the British tabloid The Sun, a “hilariously fresh take” on the date-from-hell story.
The “poo-poo” article, as it became known, was one of the most popular by the British broadcaster’s renowned World Service, which recently added a dozen foreign language websites to its roster as part of efforts to capture a younger, more diverse and digitally savvy audience.