Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are you a true bi-tech-tual?

There are those who will tell you that “bitechtual” means one who uses both Android and Apple products (I’m one). But I think we logophiles can do better when it comes to using and defining this playful word.

Think of bilingual and bicoastal: they both assume a pronounced division between a commonality. For bilingual, it’s two different languages; for bicoastal, two different coasts. Has anyone ever confused Urdu for English, or the Pacific for the Atlantic?

So let’s give “bitechtual” the same clean dichotomy: a pronounced division between high technology and low, fast tech and slow, digital and old-fashioned. When we define it this way, that makes a lot more of us bitechtual.

I keystroked this blog on a desktop, but first I wrote it on paper. I count on the Breaking News alerts from the New York Times that come through on my smartphone and tablet, but I still savor the rustle and fold of the Sunday paper version. My husband and I dip into different sections, folding them back and swapping them out as the Sunday afternoon progresses, sharing the singular act of reading in a way that only the actual newsprint allows. (Then we recycle it.)

My young friend Sofia (who is bilingual) watches with rapt attention as her older sister swipes across images of antelopes on the iPad. But her little three-year-old hands also reach eagerly for the Beatrix Potter books on my bookshelf.

I fact-check through Google any number of times through the day. It’s fast, efficient and, provided you pull from reputable sources, accurate. But these are discrete and often disparate items I’m checking. There is still something to be said for seeing forest as well as trees, so please don’t try to take away my print edition of Word Menu and the context it provides.

Being bitechtual in this way lets us adapt technologies to the circumstances. Despite the dichotomy between paper and pixel, “bitechtual” as we’ve now defined it carries the suggestion of coexistence as well. Even though my mother had to remind me the other day to check my old and tattered address book for the number that wasn’t programmed into my phone, I think I will always be bitechtual.

 With one exception.

I’ve realized that, when it comes to geography and directions, I am utterly a-techtual. It’s almost as if the GPS Lady knows I can’t read a paper map, so she feels free to send me off anywhere but where I wanted to be. Well, there’s always the sun.