Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Technology Addiction

At one time in my life I shunned computer use. I had no need so why use a technology I found difficult to understand. Then came along Windows 95, and my entry into technology addiction began. Why, one can talk to people across the seas! Want to buy a shirt online at 11:00 pm -- here's my credit card number. I surf the web, keep a blog, store photos, file documents, bookmark favorite sites, and email my children via the computer. Am I addicted to my laptop -- oh, yes!

Computers allow for news inundation, instantaneous communication, and split second gossip dissemination. We don't have time to have information filtered when it is before us from a myriad of medias. Information isn't even substantiated before it is let loose to the masses so misinformation becomes fact when it shouldn't. There have been a few times I've had to do without my computer and those are the times I understand how much time this thing sucks out of my life. Maybe I need to designate one day/week a non-computer day.

Cell phone usage came later than computer usage for me. My first cell phone was bulky, had about 30 minutes of call time/month and was only to be used for emergencies. Service was dicey. I do not believe it had voicemail let alone caller id. Now my cellphone has more services than I know how to use, has caller id, various ring tones, takes and stores pictures, plays music, has a calculator, a clock, a video camera, and text messaging. It is always with me and that is the rub.

I first started carrying a cell phone when away from my children (they were of an age where they could be left alone safely and were self sufficient enough). I kept it on so if there was an emergency they could contact me. I will never forget when I first realized that cell phones were intrusive. I was in a dressing room at Dayton's when my cell phone rang. My son, who was well able to make a sandwich, use the microwave, and who had been raised to be independent called to ask what was for lunch. After explaining my location and that lunch was whatever he made, I turned off the phone realizing I did not always want to be found. I did not always want to be connected.

That feeling has not faded away. Was it really so bad not to have 24/7 access to everyone in our lives? What real emergencies do we have in our lives? I understand the significance of having a cell phone when driving at midnight on a lonely country highway, that a 16 year old who has just earned a diver's license should carry one, and that cell phones at Columbine helped the police but that is not the reason people really have cell phones. I have friends whose children call them 9 times a day about the mundane: what's for supper, have you washed my soccer jersey, why aren't you home yet? And my friends get exasperated at those calls! When it is suggested that the phone be turned off, the parents are astonished at the thought of being disconnected from their children.

I am a person who values my alone time. I like quiet, I enjoy solitude, and I don't particularly like talking on the phone for more than 15 minutes. I ignore my land line more than answer it, and I believe one of the greatest inventions of the last 100 years is caller id. That way I can choose when to answer my cell phone. Distinctive ring tones have aided me if I can't see the caller id (aging eyes), so I can identify the caller by the ring tone. Voice mail allows the caller to leave a message, or not, and I can contact that person in my own due time. I always answer my children's calls. Everyone else depends on my mood.

My children are enveloped in technology, cell phones in particular. My daughter rarely answers her phone (takes after her mother) but text messages often and receives texts even more often. She even has one of those phones that has a regular little typewriter keypad. I drew the line the last time I was with her and she started to text while driving -- with me in the passenger seat. I don't think so! Her brother should just have the thing surgically implanted in his hand. Until recently it was dicey as to what mood a call would find him since he never shuts the thing off. It seems I always called when he was sleeping (whether it was 10 a.m. or 3 p.m) and he was pretty ugly upon my awakening him. When I suggested he shut off his phone during naps he informed me that he uses his phone for an alarm clock......(the tone of voice used was one we parents know only too well --- "like how can you be so stupid as to not know that!")

I drew the line when we vacationed in Palm Springs last March. I asked both kids to turn off their cell phones during the day when we were all together because I wanted to enjoy them without interruption. (I do find it rude that people cut off the person sitting with them at dinner or during a face to face conversation to answer their cell phone. I apologize to store clerks if I end up answering a call when checking out. Do we really need to share/listen to other's conversations?) They agreed, and I can't help but think it was a moment of enlightenment for them -- they could live without the phone.

What if we end up like the characters in science fiction stories? "Star Trek" had the computer able to identify the location of everyone on the ship and crew members were always accessible by communicators. In later stories the Federation crews had communication chips implanted in their brains. No thanks. GPS is already evolving to the point that our locations can be the business of others and means there is little chance of escaping.

Yesterday I purposefully left my cell phone in the car while I ran errands. That felt good. I want to do that more often. Better yet, I should turn it and the computer off and have a little less technology in my life.

1 comment:

Cheryle said...

Oh, it would be fun to go back to some simpler time, wouldn't it? I used to think only doctors needed beepers (remember beepers?) because surely no one else was that important! Now, it seems that we're all "that" important! I knew my addiction was off the wall when Jim & I visited historical homes last week and my thoughts were, "Well, I could live like this and enjoy it - as long as I had indoor plumbing and internet access!" Am I doomed???