Improved Means to an Unimproved End

Ugh. I get sooo sick of people complaining about technology. They act like it is some sort of demon that is destroying the world. It's killing our social skills, making us more insular. It's causing us to have car accidents. It's making us bad parents. Blah. Blah. Blah. The internet, and our ability to access it anywhere, anytime, is the new TV; the new rock and roll and rap. It's the new cigarettes; new weed. It's big and bad and terrible and will be the demise of civilization.

Not to call her out, but a personal example of the schism between the old guard and the new is illustrated during a conversation between me and my mom. While she does use the World Wide Web for work and did buy a Kindle last year, she is more or less fearful of technology. She's pretty much a ludite. When I'd send her a link, the lady used to re-type links into her Internet browser (you know, like$%%&%&. She thinks someone is sending her porn because it "pops up on her computer". She used to buy a new memory card for her camera when it was full. A convo with me and Moe is like Jimmy Fallon on SNL as the computer guy. Moe says something tech-ignorant and I make her feel like a moron. "O.M.G. Mom! You can download those photos into the cloud! Or save them to a jump drive! Get up and let me do it!" Then Moe accuses me of being an evil, civilization wrecking, contemporary member of society and generally bad parent.

"You know, all you moms do is type on your phones. You aren't even paying attention to your kids!"

I know, Mom. It's almost like I'm drinking coffee and smoking butts and ignoring my kids while they say Mom! Mom! Mom! over and over again. Don't you realize, dear Mom, that the internet, and the smart phone, is often my life line? Thanks to that mobile device, I can reach out to a friend to regain sanity and my kids don't even know. Don't you remember trying to talk on the phone when we were kids? Don't you recall that we'd be playing in our rooms and come out, just to yell in your face, as soon as you dialed? Thanks to technology I can multi-task communication, unlike the moms of days gone by, who had to openly ignore their children to get a word in edge-wise.

Yes! I am going to use my phone, and check facebook, and listen to rock and roll,all while parenting. Now, let me now get off one soap box and onto another. I think that technology is a demon that is destroying the world as we knew it. It has changed our social skills, making us feel lonely while being connected. We are less comfortable looking people in the eye and speaking in person and we've lost something important because of it. We have car accidents because we are writing LOL instead of watching the road. It's addictive. It's dangerously addictive.

The other day a woman pulled over to text. In doing so she blocked the end of my driveway as I was trying to get out of it. She never even looked up. (Yes, I should have honked!) Today a woman cashed out at the convenience store and talked on her phone the whole time. Not once did she look the cashier in the eye nor did she at least mouth "Thank you." (She did tip him a quarter, yeah!)Social media feeds on narcissism and makes people feel bad about themselves. I hear my phone beep or ring when it isn't really beeping or ringing. I can't go very long without checking my email(s), facebook, Linkedin, etc.

We all know this but, like other addictions, we don't stop. Maybe we can't. For me, I'm trying to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. This technology has connected me to many people I wouldn't have had a connection with before technology. I learn a lot and get feedback, support, and information. I have a network. On a bad day, when I feel alone or outsmarted by my kids, a quick text, or kitty video puts life into perspective and helps me push on with the day. At the same time, I can't be alone for very long, I'm easily distracted, and always "on". Yesterday, I went to the mall, alone, and accidentally left my phone at home. It was equally nerve-wracking and liberating. As my friend reflected to me, it was like camping.

Spending three hours shopping at H&M and Old Navy is now a walk in the woods. Dick's Sporting Goods is my Walden Pond. What would Henry David Thoreau say?

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”


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