Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Technology Overload

     Besides not having TV at home (see my prior TV-less Bliss essay), we also don't have Internet access. Well we did for awhile, via out landlord's Wi-Fi, but because of Braden's computer misuse, we asked our landlord to change the password (that Deanne unwisely gave to Braden unbeknown to me with the stern warning “Use only with great discretion.” Well, expecting Braden to exercise great discretion with Internet access is like leaving a room full of cocaine and warning a junkie “Don't touch it.” She did install parental controls for his PC account, but as any teen knows, those can be easily defeated. Almost any sort of movie or video is available on Youtube, for example, and almost any photographic and written material is available on photo sharing websites. Even public library Internet filters are unable to block all such inappropriate material, so I've heard.)
     I never did want Internet access at home for the same reasons I didn't want TV at home: it discourages social interaction and wastes tons of time, and inappropriate material will inevitably be accessed (perhaps by me more than any other). And who wants to be filled with garbage? I often feel like crap after posting to my blog and checking and sending e-mails, which are highly appropriate materials. The reason for these adverse feelings is I hate being on the computer for an hour straight or so. Most frustrating is when I can't get the computer to do what I want it to do, or it does stuff I don't want it to do. I'm not dumb, so my conclusion is that these computer programs or websites are not user friendly.
     The only reason I got an e-mail account is because Braden's Cub Scout den leader required one a decade or so ago. Sure, it's free and super convenient for mass mailings, but the downside is I've read some of the lowest forms of communication ever in some e-mails, with horrendous spellings and grammar, indecipherable meanings, and inane content. Spare me—I've seen far better messages in bathroom graffiti (which seems to be on the wane, probably because kids these days have no need for pens or pencils).
     When I do feel the need for Internet access, I obtain it at work or the public library during lunch breaks. A good week was when I checked personal e-mails only once. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible anymore because of blog posts, essay submissions, and for awhile, urgent church e-mails. (I'm not even sure how I got on that e-mail list. I made it clear from the beginning that I didn't want to be included. I suppose I broke down at a weak point and gave it to them. I've since requested my e-mail address' removal.)
     Braden and Deanne for awhile fed me bovine feces about his having to finish Internet-related homework by the following Monday so we needed to provide him weekend access. I said that that didn't wash because public schools can't force parents to obtain Internet access or favor students with such access, schools must provide ample access for all. “All your Internet-related work must be done at school!” I told him. Sure enough, with all his schools chock full of Internet accessible laptops, teachers and librarians have been happy to provide all the access he's needed during non-class hours. It hasn't been a problem since.
     I find it amusing to read about growing antipathy toward omnipresent and all-consuming technology reliance and engagement. First came the iPods when perhaps half the people I'd see on the bus fooled with these things for awhile, not a single one smiling. Next came iPhones or portable hand held devices for text messaging, playing games, streaming movies or TV shows, listening to music, and such. Again, seldom did I see a smile among them. Whereas when I examined those without these devices who engaged with others, looked about, or even slept, a few at least usually seemed content, or smiled or shared a laugh or pleasant look or exchange with another. To me those were the winners living in the moment, not disengagers staring at images on glass screens, trying to keep up with the latest trend. 
     A recent statistic I read to our family stated that thirty-three percent of people have used a smartphone to appear busy in a restaurant or bar. My observation is that sixty percent of those on the bus using these devices now are playing games, watching movies/TV, or scrolling through lists of who knows what. It seems like a lot of them use it as a disengagement tool to keep others away, a signal not to bother them. I accomplish the same by closing my eyes and trying not to fall too deeply asleep so that I miss my bus stop. For each his own. I'm willing to bet ten years from now, though, no one will be using these devices anymore, just as I don't see anyone using an iPod or Kindle or push button phone or pda anymore, all devises from less than a decade ago. 
     By the way, I'm not opposed to these devices, I just don't think they should be used to avoid or discourage positive or worthwhile engagement with others. And these things can be attention hogs. It was piteous to recently witness parents with two young kids having dinner at a restaurant and their heads were all glued to their own devices, the meal and each other mere afterthoughts. What did that say about them? Did things bode well for their futures? Sure, that meal may have been an anomaly, but judging from their stone-cold expressions, it struck me as ingrained habit, not excited one-time “treats.” And they didn't exchange a single word—very disturbing and sad.
     I suspect a lot more families would be happier with less versus more elective technology in their lives. As with most such niceties, moderation is key, I suppose. 

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