When I first learned to use the phone, I stood on a stool and told the operator the number I wanted; it was only three digits. If there was no one I wanted to call, it was always amusing to listen to the neighbors talk on our four-party line. Today, swarming satellites connect us instantly with anyone in the world. If you want to see pictures at the same time, you can easily do that with Skype. There are those among us who still find programming a VCR a challenge, but happily, that technology is disappearing. On what instrument we will play those charming videos of our grandchildren remains to be seen. All of this brings up an interesting question: Are there technological advances which we can choose to ignore?
I was not reassured when a daughter recently told me even I could learn Tivo. I suppose I will have to if I ever want to record a TV program, which rarely happens. Learning how to operate a computer was a task I undertook 25 years ago and it didn’t seem hard then; I’m glad that I did, otherwise my life today would be entirely different. On the other hand, the concept of expanding social networking is something I will continue to resist.
When telephones first came into use, there was probably conversation about how relationships would change. No more talking over the back fence since neighbors were within reach by the wall-mounted phone. But the world moved to a better place because of the convenience. Now we have a telephone in every room and one in the pocket. The landline phone will soon be a relic as the smart phone and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) become totally ubiquitous. No more white pages in the telephone directory; you can do that online and get a map to the house you are calling; too bad if you have only a dumb phone.
Knowing how antiquated we would be if we hadn’t kept up with burgeoning technology, we have had to make some decisions about social networking. Texting (computer spell check doesn’t think that’s a word), Facebook, and Twitter are the keys to true happiness, we are led to believe. One of the great evolutionary leaps for humankind was the appearance of opposable thumbs; that separates humans from lower primates. I wonder if thumbs will evolve further and develop a wart on the side to make texting more efficient.
When a teacher is plying her trade, the students’ dancing thumbs are a major distraction as well a great aid to those who would cheat on a test. There probably have been lawsuits filed by helicopter parents when their child’s cell phone was confiscated by the teacher; clearly, a First Amendment issue.
Facebook and Twitter make a quantum leap in communication. Horror stories abound where blogs (another non-spell check word) have gone viral. A university counselor told me she frequently sees students who are mightily upset when a potential employer looked at their Facebook entry (drunk, nude and/or worse) and the job was not proffered. Neurophysiologists say, probably with accuracy, the brain does not develop judgment until the mid-twenties; the blogosphere of young adults would seem to confirm that.
Why text when you can talk later? Being held captive might be a good reason and a 911 call will give your GPS position to the authorities. Beyond emergencies, there are few things that can’t wait. The next time you see a group of youngsters eating in a fast food establishment, rest assured many of them will be texting. As they would say, “Like talking is SO yesterday!” I wonder if they are sending messages to others at the table.
Occasionally, one must release the Inner Curmudgeon. That’s one of the few things that gets stronger with age and it generally gets little notice but to rail against new technologies could be counter-productive. Refusing to understand them would be a mistake, particularly if you have youngsters in the home. It’s important for parents to know what’s available online and take appropriate measures. Ignore the whole thing and one could lose touch with all that’s happening in the world but the converse is not true. Being connected should not be dependent on external electronic gadgetry. It is still possible to reach out and touch someone. I’m not talking about smart phones, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.