This post isn’t the first to touch on the backlash of technology, but there’s a new book out called iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology And Overcoming Its Hold On Us by Larry Rosen, PhD. With such a self-explanatory title I don’t need to go into detail on the topic, but I will point out that I find the “i” prefix ironic since it identifies the “disorder” as the brand most associated with these products. Like it’s almost fashionable to have the “Apple disease.”
Truth be told I have a few drafts about technology percolating here…. one was about the verbal pollution of Siri, the personal assistant (like you need to look out the window AND ask your phone if it’s raining? Zooey D, girl, I’m looking at you) and the another was about how GPS is creating a world of traveling automatons who can’t read (or fold) maps. So I took this book as an omen to cobble them all together into this post.
I am neither a Luddite nor a technophobe. All the technology both at home and in the workplace has made life easier and led me to make faster (and sometimes better) decisions. It has also provided some measure of personal fulfillment. Clearly, this very blog is part of my techno- timeline. I may not be the fastest circuit on the motherboard, but I get around enough. However, I don’t think that the newest gadget/app is going to make my life THAT much better. I see these constant new releases as just marketing, not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are those early adopters who do like to trade-up as often as they can, and these companies are in the business to make money.
But all of this technology comes with an “off” switch. At the end of my workday I unlatch my laptop from its dock and lock it away (or bring it home where it rests silently in my pack) until the next workday. I do carry an old-lady flip-type cell-phone. I send and receive texts on it as well as talk, and like the peace of mind it brings when I’m away from home. You loyal Napsters remember a time when you would complete a journey and call home to let the phone ring once as a sign you arrived safely. As I tell the children, back in the Stone Age it cost money to talk on the phone — especially in the daylight hours. Now that sounds as crazy as “party lines” or telephone numbers with letters in them.
I like the back-up of GSP technology, but I still use MapQuest/Google Maps before I head out. And there have been times when I’ve reminded my traveling companions that the shortest route isn’t always the safest (or most scenic). You have to use your noggin and some common sense. My favorite pre-GPS moment was following the written directions of a work pal who (eventually) sent us to the most divine lobster shack on the Maine coast. We were so sure we were going to drive right into the Atlantic as we followed this road all the way to the end. (my initial thought was maybe she didn’t like me as much as I thought) But just as I was about to tell the hungry, grumpy G-Man to make a u-turn on this one-lane road we arrived! So a leap of faith and a little serendipity led us to a spot only the locals know. Would we ever have found this place perched out in the middle of nowhere doing a POI search? Maybe/ maybe not, but that first trip is now part of family folklore.
Although humans are highly adaptable, I think it takes a longer time for us to evolve. That means using, measuring, evaluating tools and not assuming the latest incarnation of anything is always the best. Yes, it is amazing that you can carry your entire music collection in your pocket, and cellular technology granted my wish that I no longer needed to stretch the phone cord to its maximum length to get some phone privacy by hiding on the basement stairs (truth be told, adulthood eventually took care of that one). After the novelty of the latest gadget burns off, I’m grateful for a little pause to evaluate if this is really a good thing, and I’m OK putting it aside if it’s not. And I don’t need a PhD to tell me that “opting out” is a valid option.