Little Things

It rained yesterday in Montreal. Some lightning and thunder, nothing special. It was a rain like a million others. But at the beginning of the rain, everybody got an amber alert-type warning on their phones about the upcoming precipitation. I’m not talking about a text message from a weather service. I’m talking about an alert that one usually gets only in extraordinary situations. The kind that covers your whole screen and you don’t choose whether you want to see it or not.

It turns out that this started with COVID. All of a sudden, the intrusive alert became something that appeared regularly on trivial pretexts.

This is one of the many ways we are trained to exist in a constant state of exception. There’s always a crisis going on. And a crisis justifies extraordinary measures.

People will say this is a little thing, and who cares? But these things always creep up on us in little steps. And then we accept endless intrusions into our phones, homes and bodies in the name of safety. “Oh, it’s just crazy stuff that happens on campuses. It has nothing to do with us.” “Ah, it’s just a phone notification, who cares?” But none of this is accidental. Little by little, it sneaks into every area of life. And then it’s too late to do anything.

9 thoughts on “Little Things

  1. We get them for tornados, shootings of police (i.e. dangerous criminal on the loose), amber alerts, and wandering dementia patients.

    The alerts for tornados are well-targeted. You don’t get the alert unless the tornado warning is for the county you are in— it’s based on cell tower locations, not your area code or address. But the amber alerts and others are not targeted. They seem to go out to the whole region, even though a missing-kid alert hundreds of miles away is neither urgent nor helpful. I hate those. They clearly have the ability to send messages out to the area where they’ll be most useful, but they don’t. So now when we’re in the library and someone shoots a police officer 250 miles away, the whole building sounds like a swarm of electronic crickets while sixteen phones go off simultaneously, for an emergency that has no relevance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never heard of those in my part of Europe, and I find any and such developments profoundly disturbing, but I see that the vast majority of people have a strange relationship with their phones, so I’m not overly surprised.
    The digital technology revolution is worrisome because of its unprecedented reach, as well as for what it makes possible. Personally, I try to rely as little as possible on it, but I’m very much in a minority of one where I work.


  3. I’ve only ever gotten these for amber alerts and once a missing adult alert. The amber alerts are targeted with the tri-county area, though sometimes we get them from further away when there’s travel involved. The missing adult alert was just my city.

    I can see a tornado warning or other emergency situations. But rain? Why?


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