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Facing my tech hesitation

In Other Words


A while ago, I wrote a column about how heartwarming it is to see children using their imagination in a world where most of their toys involve some sort of technology. When I think of the changes technology brings, I tend to focus on children because their world will undoubtedly be very different from the one that I grew up with. But lately I have been thinking about adults and my own feelings towards technology. What will the future bring for those of us who have come to expect the world in the way we know it?

I confess that I tend to be hesitant towards technological advancement. You might even say I have a love-hate relationship with it. I choose the facets of it that I love, and reject those that I find disruptive to my own little world.

The advent of computers and communication by email were fun and easy, but I was the last person I knew to get a cell phone, and only then because I found myself alone with a broken down car on a deserted highway in the middle of the night in the rain. A nightmare for a young woman, and one that would have been far less scary if I’d had a cell phone. Needless to say, I bought one the next day and have been happy with it ever since.

When smartphones and tablets entered our world, I became a little distrustful of the new technology. It took me some time to admit that I dislike them simply because I’m afraid of the changes it has brought.

Smartphones can be incredibly wonderful. In a debate, it is useful to know what Luke Skywalker’s haircut really did look like providing instantaneous clarification to who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s nice to know the score of the game or what the weather for tomorrow will be. But I find that these little devices seem to be taking something away from the conversational flow between people. Eye contact is less, attention spans seem to be shorter, and as time goes on I fear these little screens are becoming more of a reality than the people who surround us. In our quest to be connected all the time, have we instead denied ourselves the ability to be disconnected?

That said, I am not completely oblivious to the otherwise impossible connections this technology has brought us. Skype allows me to see my family on the other side of the country. My young daughter can get face time with family members she only sees a couple times a year. Finding a good restaurant or the nearest tourist attraction is achieved with a touch of a button. It’s almost impossible to get lost when you are holding a GPS device in your hands.

When the Kindle was announced, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos declared, “It’s important to embrace new technologies instead of to fight them.” His statement made me feel a bit sheepish, as that is sometimes just how I feel. And while I initially resisted getting an e-reader, saying that I preferred the feel of a real book in my hands, once I actually got a Kindle I was delighted with the technology that gave me an endless library of books at my fingertips.

I never used to consider myself old-fashioned, and even now I bristle at being characterized as someone who doesn’t like technology. I applaud what technology has done for science and medicine and even entertainment. I love the ability to have my family and friends an easy phone call away. My hesitation, like many others, is rooted in a sort of fear of the unknown. I fear that the advancements will irrevocably alter the importance of some of the things I grew up with.

I know that eventually, each new technology that comes around will at some point probably become indispensable to me like the cell phone did, and I will undoubtedly love it and wonder how I ever got on without it. Perhaps my glacial pace for accepting these seemingly radical changes to my way of life will somehow prepare me better for when I finally do jump on the technological bandwagon.

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