David Reynolds: Devices
Those who make all the incredible electronic devices knew this would happen, that someday most of us would have a new addition — a never ending effort to stay connected. Steve Jobs knew. Apple’s stock rides the iphone frenzy. But what if you’re not an Apple stock holder, but just another slave to a small toy you carry around all day? Sorry.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of the new technologies. But tiny gadgets, or toys (which I prefer to call them), have taken over our lives. And at what price?
At a price that is too high. For starters, we have lost the ability to hold a conversation. Being able to connect has nothing to do with being able to converse. It seems that conversations unfold too slowly in our fast world — a world where we proudly boast that we have little time to sit back and enjoy life. We like to think that we are too busy for such foolishness. So we dispense (excuse me, delete) our former friends, except when we have the urge to talk about ourselves — an urge that is uncontrolable to many. It’s all about “me,” seldom about “us.” Sad.
The “IT Culture” believes that Facebook is superior than going at it face-to-face. They believe that the standard telephone is too old-fashioned. They don’t like the feature of the old phones that do not allow you to control what is said at the other end of the line. So, instead, we stare at tiny screens, exhibit no eye contact and bury our heads, along with our land lines. Then we shop for the latest smart phone, never thinking that it can’t make us smarter — only dumber.
You know the rest of the story. You see it everyday, in cars that are now portable phone booths and on sidewalks where pedestrians bump into you because they have some device pasted to one ear. This past Spring while in Florida I enjoyed sunrises over the ocean and sunsets over the gulf. Others on the beach did not. They had brought along their tiny toys. The sun had already set on them.
Sure, the new devices can do almost everything — except make a good cup of coffee and form good human relationships. But, who cares? Such relationships can be demanding and require TLC. And coffee can spill. That sounds messy. So, forget it. Instead, we establish close relationships with our toys. How else can you impress your girl friend that you know when it is high tide in Hong Kong? And it only took you a mini-second.
This fascination with cybernating is getting worse. Youths are now learning a new skill: maintaining eye contact while texting. Yep, those kids will go right to the top of their IT class.
Our devices are changing who we are because we are afraid to leave them at home. I’m told that when the super rich geeks of Silicon Valley take off for their weekend retreats in Hawaii they leave their devices back in California. Smart. They discovered the hard way that life is for living, not connecting. But, have the rest of us?
And what about this multitasking craze? It’s deadly. Drivers talking on cellphones are four times as likely to get into traffic accidents as those who are not. Meanwhile Virginia’s General Assembly worries about the unborn. I worry about those of us with driver’s licenses already born! Can’t we enact a simple law that would make more than a dent in reducing highway accidents? It would ban all cellphone use by drivers, whether hand-held or not. Why ban both? Simple, our brains are wired for selective attention and can focus only on one activity at a time. It is the mental distraction that kills, not one less hand on the steering wheel. According to University of Utah studies, only 2.5% of the total population are able to attend to more than one thing at a time with ease. Still, we keep trying to push our human limitations. Often with tragic consequences.
Here’s the rub. I am comfortable with myself and where I am. Why create interference to change that? Of course, if you are not living in a comfort zone, those devices sure do come in handy.
As you can gather by now, I have another problem. It’s this: I love to talk face-to-face. If any reader out there wishes to have a real, old-fashioned conversation, please let me know. Just email me.