One of my favorite movie lines of all time is from Contact. The character of Palmer Joss is questioning whether we, as a society, are better off because of technology.
“Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the Web … at the same time, we feel emptier, lonelier and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history…”
With what seems like a new invention in technology on a daily basis, I struggle with this question everyday.
I find it ironic that we have so much technology, so many things that are supposed to make our lives simple. Yet I feel like life is more complicated than ever before! We’re supposed to have more time, but society wants me to fill it up with gadgets and online apps.
We’re supposed to have smart phones, iPhones, Blackberrys, Droids, iPads … I really can’t keep up. And honestly, I don’t know if I want to.
I thought I took the leap a few years ago when I bought a Palm Treo smart phone. But when my trusty Treo died last year, I was heartbroken. Mainly for all the photos and phone numbers I had not backed up, and the prospect of learning a brand new system.
So when it died, I struggled with what to buy. So many people told me to buy an iPhone or a Blackberry. But they scare me. My boss – yes, my Baby Boomer boss – was showing me her new iPhone and all of her apps, and asked when I’m getting one. I told her I’m waiting a few years until Sophie can show me how to navigate it. I was only half-joking about that.
My friend was showing me the Amazon.com app on her iPhone. She loves that she can think of a book, click on the App, hit the “purchase” button, and it shows up at her door in three days. Hmmm… it’s like we’re spending money we don’t even know about!
Do you know what I ended up using? A really old Cingular LG flip phone. And you know what? It works perfectly fine and my life is less complicated. And yes, it does text message.
I don’t own an iPod. That’s right. I still own and regularly listen to my CDs and the radio (commercial radio, not even satellite). Don’t worry, I have given up nearly all my cassette tapes.
We have one television in our house. (Although now that Sophie wants to watch The Little Mermaid more than once a day, we’re considering getting a second.) No HDTV. The television is equipped with digital cable and a DVR (now that, I could not live without). We own a DVD player. I still don’t watch TV or movies on the Internet.
And then there’s social networking and being connected at all time. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Ning, and probably a dozen more I’m too old to know about. I do enjoy my several-times-daily fixes of Facebook. But I finally figure out one site, and then comes a new and trendier concept.
There’s something about being connected all the time and to everyone that I just can’t get behind. I get annoyed when I’m at home and someone is calling my cell phone. I still have a landline. I like that I’m not paying an extra $25 a month for a cell phone data plan so that I can check my e-mail at the grocery store. I like that my technological Achilles heals are only e-mail and Facebook.
And let’s talk about the changing face of books and technology. One of my favorite activities is going to a bookstore and reading actual books. So I knew I was past my prime in this society when this older gentleman in his 70s was standing in front me reading on his Kindle at the local CVS pharmacy!
Ironically, my work involves technology. My department has student assistants whose sole job it is to be constantly on Facebook and Twitter. We build interactive Web sites, send e-mails rather than letters, create admissions and recruitment videos for YouTube, have an online virtual campus tour, and create Web tutorials to teach students how to get off academic probation. We spend countless hours trying to figure out how best to communicate with these college-aged Millennials and Gen Y’rs who don’t even know what snail mail is. That’s the present and the future — I know that.
I know technology is important. It’s revolutionizes how we do just about everything in life. And I’m truly in awe of what we have now that we didn’t have even a year ago.
Just don’t ask me to completely convert myself. Right now, I like my simple life. And I’ll continue to enjoy writing down my appointments on my personal paper calendar.