TMI! Our Tiny Computers Are Making Life Hard. 

My sister sent $150 and a tube of saliva to a company in California she found online. They did some science, and now we have a new uncle and cousin. What a time to be alive. I shared this revelation with some friends and learned that The War was apparently a randy time for many granddads and papaws. Guess that's why it was the Greatest Generation, huh? If your granddaddy served, you might reconsider springing for the Father's Day offer of 25 percent off an ancestry kit plus free gift-wrap. Or don't say nobody warned you when you end up with your own gift: uncovered family secrets and a diminished opinion of your grandfather.

Whatever. I get it. War is hell, boys will be boys, and all that. Maybe Grandpa didn't know about his secret child. It's too late to tell him, anyway — he's been gone for 30 years. It could be a mistake or a false alarm. I don't know how much I trust those mail-order DNA tests — certainly not enough to send my own specimen to their sinister gene library. I read the fine print.

click to enlarge © SERGEY KHAKIMULLIN | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • © Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

On the bright side, my sister's spit sample tested negative for the terrifying gumbo of genetic risk factors the service can detect. "Doctor Google" induces enough hypochondria without foresight of the debilitating diseases that lurk in the future. Otherwise I'd spend the rest of my life shouting "I'm a-comin'!" to the heavens, Fred Sanford-style, every time I get a stomach cramp or forget where I put my keys. That's the last thing I need. I lose those things every day.

As family secrets go, ours is awkward but not exactly earth-shattering. My grandmother isn't around to have her feelings hurt. It's just another thing to add to the growing list of things I wish I hadn't found out, like the amount of sodium in a packet of instant ramen. I'm not sure if I'm afflicted with millennial unrest or I've recently unlocked a new adulting level, but I'm starting to reconsider my stance on knowledge being power. It's kind of overrated. Between the things that can't be unseen or unheard, immaterial crap, and general information overload, I'm starting to understand how people did live without this stuff. As someone who works in digital content and also has to watch a YouTube video to boil an egg, that's saying something.

It's wonderful that technology puts new realms of information at our fingertips. But only a sliver of it is essential; the rest is either pointless or false and it keeps getting harder and harder to distinguish or even keep up. On one hand, think of how many arguments went unsettled before we had tiny computers in our pockets. We don't have to balance checkbooks to know whether we can afford to charge a pizza to our debit cards — the tiny computer will tell us. Heck, we don't even need checkbooks anymore. That's great, but that same computer is also responsible for showing me the infamous "pink slime" video and giving away the ending of Get Out. It has told me so many opinion-wrecking things, like which of my schoolmates grew up to be anti-vaxxers. Not long ago, one had to attend a class reunion to obtain that kind of dirt — it was once-in-a-decade intel. Now it comes with an order of essential oils.

This summer, I'm cutting back on the "Welp, could've gone my whole life without that" content I consume. It's impossible to escape it all, but I know I won't miss much — I already deleted Nextdoor and left my neighborhood Facebook group, and the high crime rate of loud noises and suspicious teens subsided immediately. Disabling alerts from The Washington Post cut my daily eye-roll tally in half. It's not that I don't care what happens in my neighborhood, or in the news. I just don't need to be pelted with little arrows all day long. Just give me a calculator and an encyclopedia before I forget how to use them. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Jen Clarke is a digital marketing specialist and an unapologetic Memphian.

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