Technology - You can't live with it and you can't live without it

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Technology - You can't live with it and you can't live without it

Technology is a wonderful thing. The things we can do now are limitless. We can deposit money into our checking or savings account while we cook dinner. We can electronically sign an important document while we watch our children play at the park. We can reach across the nation and feed a starving child, or donate to research without getting off the couch. We can watch important world events unfold, in real time, from the comfort of our living room while we video chat about it with a friend 3000 miles away.  We are available at any given moment in time no matter what we are doing, via text or a phone call, in case of an emergency. Things that required a lot more of our time and presence than it did not too long ago have been consolidated to a few clicks on a keyboard.

In the last several weeks I have attended two very important family gatherings. It used to be that when we all got together there was much conversation about what we had all been doing since the last time we saw each other. Time was filled with talk of new babies, recent weddings, new jobs, and old friends, and we were often meeting a new family member for the first time, with lots of pictures being passed around. These things connected us in a way that we don't get to experience much anymore; if at all.  Nowadays we don't have to wait to see each other because we have the technology to connect as often as it comes to mind.

With email we hear about new babies and weddings, and we even get the occasional "thank you." With texting we can find out about someone getting a new job or what is going on with a friend, as soon as the event happens. And with Skype we "meet" and chat with the newest family member or stay connected to grandchildren who may not get to see us very often. All of which also carries the possibility of photos that we no longer have to print out to see.

At those very important family gatherings I mentioned, I noticed more people using their cellphones than I did interacting with each other. Oh, there were plenty of conversations going on, but they were broken by incoming calls or the need to reply to a text. I found the latest generation of children - whose parents had grown up playing together, always filling the room with laughter and smiles and the occasional "shhhhh..." for getting too loud - huddled in a corner of the room, each on some electronic device or another, playing a game that required nothing but their individual attention. Some even wore earbuds so as not to bother the grownups with the sound. In the middle of the group on the floor lay a pile of crayons and coloring pages that the youngest of the children were using because they didn't quite grasp the idea of a handheld device and the fortunes of games at their disposal. But I have no doubt they would be joining the older ones at some future event soon enough.

This saddens me very much. Technology has robbed these children, all fourth generation cousins, not only of the chance to experience each other during play, as their parents did, and their parents before them, who carry wonderful memories of those days, but of the fact-to-face interactions that we all need in order to grow as individuals. How we respond to others is paramount to how we get along in life. Social norms these days mean that we no longer receive a hand-signed birthday card to put on the mantel or in our child's scrapbook. We are made aware of future parties through an online event page. And we are now left to interpreting emails and texts with each of us being as different as night and day. Electronic communication leaves out human emotion and more often than not, without the facial expression to go along with it, the sender who is simply wanting to convey a thought can create untold harm when the receiver completely misconstrues it. One can use as many "emoticons" as they see fit, but nothing speaks as loudly as the sneer, or the raised eyebrow, or the twinkle in another person's eyes. And nothing comes close to what it feels like to pull a cherished one close and tell them to their face how much you love them.

I believe we are really blessed to have such advanced abilities to multi-task in our very busy lives. But I also know it's so important not to lose sight of the "man" behind the man-made device.

Terry Doria


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