Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tool or Trap?

Tool?  Trap?  Yeah, it's one of those T words:  TechnologyTechnology.  Gotta love it.  Also gotta hate it.  It gives a little but it steals big time.

Reminds me of that old rhyme (which is about Presbyterians, by the way--not meaning any disrespect; I'm Lutheran but I graduated from a Presbyterian college so I have kind regard):
You can but you can't.
You will but you won't.
You're damned if you do.
And you're damned if you don't.

We have come to need technology but is that really good?  Technology and electronics have become so endemic that we can no longer see our way forward without those resources.  That worries me.

Was reading an article on the BBC this morning about the importance of daydreaming and how over-reliance on tech kills it.  (If you wanna read and, honestly, you should take the time to do so:  Why You Should Let Your Mind Wander--Idle Moments Are Crucial for Creativity).

Also read an advice column today (not entirely sure which, sorry) about a grandma who didn't want to babysit her grandson during the summer, partly because all he wanted to do was play games on Kindle.  Reminded me of my friend who worries daily as she sees the deadening effect that far-too-much techno-access has on her grade-school-age grandkids. 

And the other day when I asked my neighbor about his opinion on a matter, he instinctively grabbed his SmartPhone to Google for more information before he answered.  Really not the response I was seeking.  I wanted to know what he thought, not what random internet information told him he should think. 

Over-reliance on techno-stuff dims empathy, dulls the mind, weakens the body.  Dangerous stuff.

And I'm just as guilty as anyone else.  When I couldn't sleep at 4 AM because my sciatica was making it impossible to lay down for one more second, I got out of bed to mess around with my laptop (yes, I was playing Ice Cream Blast and surfing Tumblr--in my defense, I obviously also read the news on the BBC [see link above] so that was at least some small worthwhile thing).  Really, I should have been reading that book I've been meaning to finish (it's a good one, too:  The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey--yes, that's a link to where you can find a copy) but I didn't even think of the book because I wanted to check something online and then I got sucked into the Internet Abyss without even realizing until an hour later when I wondered where the time had gone. 

I enjoy thinking creatively, finding different ways to handle small problems--certainly that's something I've often written about here.  But I find that the more time I spend online seeing what others have done, the more I feel dis-heartened and discouraged--it's depressing to think that anyone and everyone can do every little thing better and brighter than I ever could; and sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, that shuts me down and stops me before I ever start.

We need challenges.  We need fresh air.  We need to move about.  Technology distracts us from all of those things.  That's dangerous.  And how much worse is it for little kids who don't even know there are other options out there?  At least I know that I can (and should!) do better. 

Over the past couple of weeks I've been spending time brainstorming to find some simple solutions.  No computer.  Just me with pen and paper.  I've spent time daydreaming and remembering past experiences to see how I could use those in the present.  I was grateful to think of those things of the past that I had paid attention to and spent time on--actual things that I touched and tried and experienced; things that taught me and informed me and made me aware.

If a person's only experiences are on VR and not actual reality, what will he have to haul into the future with him?  If a person doesn't experience the work of his own hands, will he only know how to operate a mouse or a joystick?  That's not enough.

Yeah, I can sit here typing away on my keyboard all day long and that's just fine.  But, you know what, when I recently spent the day tending my friend's pawn shop, I didn't have my laptop with me so I used my spare time writing the old-fashioned way--with a pen in a notebook--and I wrote some rather good stuff but, because it was in a notebook and not for public consumption, I could be more boldly honest and I wrote about things that you will never read because I wrote for myself about stuff I needed to think through privately.

Myself.  Privately.  Those are two concepts that we seem to have lost touch with, aren't they?  Myself seems to mean "selfies" these days and nothing is private anymore.  I've never taken a picture of myself and hope never to do so.  And I avoid Facebook like it's the mouth of Hell because (just judging from the negative impact that I see on people around me), it probably is.  Privacy is a powerful.  There's an old superstition that says that photographs steal your soul--I'm not sure that is entirely false.  We give away too much too casually without realizing what it is that we've lost.

So, technology.....I need it to put bread on my table.  I need it sometimes to interact with others.  Aside from a 20-minute phone conversation with a friend, 10 minutes with AVG tech support, and quick chats with the postal clerk, and a grocery checker,  I have had zero human interaction for the past five days.  If it weren't for technology, I'd be even more cut off than I am.....or maybe I'd find more reasons to get out of the house and outside of my own head.  Technology is a two-edged sword, and it can cut both ways. 

It's important to keep touch with what is real.  As I'm sitting at my desk this morning, I'm not just staring at the computer screen, I can see out the window.  There are a pair busy and energetic thrasher birds kicking and tossing leaves near the treeline--they must be happily hunting up bugs for breakfast, and the bright cream color of their chests flashes in contrast to the brown to the fallen leaves.  And I've been watching the hummingbirds come and go from the feeder every few minutes.  They are bright and busy, too.  I've watched a stray kitty stalking across the yard to visit Daisy who still declines utterly to leave the screen porch.  I haven't seen the squirrels or the bunnies yet today but they will be here; I do not doubt it.  I'm watching the misty rain and wondering about the weather for today.  I'm thinking about the volunteer tomato plants and wonder how they are faring.

Real life is out there.  And it doesn't need an LCD screen or a modem to make it more real.  But we need to be real about getting out there and becoming part of it--we should dance in the rain, listen to the birds, smell the honeysuckle blooming on the vine.  No amount of technology can replace that.

Get real today.
Life is good.

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