Technology – When does it cross the line?

First, I want to apologize for the length of this post. This is something I have been thinking about for a while, and found my thoughts wordy.

In the Star Trek universe, there is a race of beings called the Borg. The Borg goes around the universe assimilating cultures into their collective. During the process, the people of the culture become part machine and part organic. The Borg’s goal is to create a universe full of super beings. After the process of merging the technology with the organic, it then becomes impossible to separate the two. If you remove the technology, then the organic dies because it can no longer support itself without the technology.

I am reminded of the Borg every time I see someone connected to a device via a blue tooth headset. It is now not uncommon to see people walking around the store talking to themselves. At one time, it was considered rude to be on the phone in public, but now that simple politeness has been eliminated. You can no longer hide from the phone.

I have been part of technology since I could first get my hands on it. I worked on computers that people today would laugh at. I was there when the 8088 processor started hitting the market. My first computer was an 8086, now we are light years ahead of that technology. I remember 5.25 floppy disks, and when hard drives were considered big if they could hold 10 Megabytes. Now we have mobile phones that make this technology look like a 2 year olds drawing.

We have integrated technology so well into our society, that it now cannot be separated. Everyone expects to be able to hook up to the internet and access any type of information that they want to access. They have to have constant access to text messaging and to email. We are not to the point we have been assimilated like the Borg, but a lot of people would be lost if the technology were removed.

I think that technology has its place, and it has made life easier for some of us. In the IT field, I can tell you that technology has made things harder for some as well. Now that email is considered a business critical application, my work has been getting more and more complicated over the years. If email goes down, the company has a very hard time being productive. I am now even at the point that I would prefer to talk to co-workers via email than on the phone.

Technology has helped society a lot, but I think that it has also hurt society in several ways. The purpose of this post is to discuss a couple of those ways. Technology has become a substitute for some of the things we need as humans. As technology gets smaller, cheaper and easier to use, it has started replacing humanity with a Borg sense of assimilation.

One of the biggest places where technology has impacted society is in the building of families. The trend I have noticed in the last few years is a moving from family members for support and entertainment to technology for that support and entertainment. Here are a few examples that I have noticed in the last little while.

NOTE: Please do not take offense to what I say in the next part of this post. I may not agree with some of you, but that does not mean that I don’t like you and think you are good people. Some people just do things differently then I think they should be done. Just like some of you think that having 6 kids is crazy, even more so when Momzoo and I talk about having more.

First, Punk #2 was involved in her 5th grade science fair. Her project (“The wrath of grapes” – A study of which fabric cleaner gets grape stains out the best) was selected to go to the district meet. I went to the High School with her the night they presented their projects. While we were waiting for the judging to finish, and the medals to be given out, I spent some time people watching. (People watching can be one of my favorite things to do.) There was a family in front of us. It was a family of 5 – Mom, Dad, and three kids. Out of the 5 family members, 4 of them were on mobile devices. They were either playing games, or texting friends. The Mom was the only one not connected, and was watching her husband play Angry Birds with a very bored look on her face. In the first two rows of the auditorium, we counted 18 people using mobile devices out of 50 people. Was this Family event bringing the family closer? In the case of this family, I would say it was not. Sure they were there to support a fellow family member, but instead of talking about their day, their interests, their dreams, and their aspirations, they were all too busy using technology. It was a moment lost where a family unit could be strengthened. Momzoo and I are going to be putting some rules in place that make cell phones and mobile devices banned from such activities. It is not good enough for the family to just be together, but they need to interact with each other as well.

Second, as DVD players and TVs get smaller and cheaper, they are now popping up everywhere. The other day I saw a Van, pulling into the local grocery store, with 4 video screens playing a movie. I was amused with this. Has society gotten to the point that we now need to entertain our family with technology during a drive to the grocery store? I hear people say that they use it to keep the kids occupied so they don’t fight, etc. Sounds to me like technology is being used to replace parenting. Why do people think it is so bad to say, “You kids settle down, or I am going to turn this Van around”? Momzoo and I have decided that we will not be putting a DVD player in our Van, or our cars. The temptation has been there, but we feel it is more important for the family to interact with each other instead of letting technology help pass the time. It is amazing what you can learn by engaging your kids in conversation during this time, or just listening to them while you are driving. Time in the car use to be used as a bonding experience, people use to take road trips to get closer. Now society takes road trips because they are required for the destination. Soon no one will know how to play the ABC game, I spy, or the Doubles Game while driving. They may be annoying, but they are things the kids will remember, and keeps them watching the scenery and paying attention to what is going on around them, instead of what movie is currently showing.

Third, technology can be a BIG waste of time. Instead of spending time reading good books, interacting with family members, it is not unusual to see people spending every “FREE” minute they have using technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love computer games. I have been known to spend hours in a dark room with a computer game. I am working on this, and have made some pretty good improvements on this front. But I think that technology has taken a real toll on our young kids. The other day, (I have seen this twice now from different kids) a kid was writing a letter. They were writing “we” in their letter. But they spelled the word “wii” instead. It may sound funny and cute, but think about it. We now have a piece of technology that has replaced the word we. Instead of we being a group of people to interact with, we is now a gaming console. I have also recently seen one of my kids be made fun of because we don’t own a “wii”. Gaming systems have now become a status symbol. Yeah, I know you can get wii fit is supposed to be good for you. But do you really think it is a valid replacement for riding a bike, roller blading, or taking a hike in the mountains?

We have also heard about the impact of texting on our youth. We have been warned and warned about it. Sexting is an increasing issue. People think that they can say whatever they want when texting. Search the news, and you will constantly see articles about kids getting in trouble because they are sexting each other. It has even gotten to the point that the x-generation is unable to interview correctly. They don’t have the skills needed to sell themselves face to face. Their social filter is never developed, and they are having a hard time reading face to face non-verbal communication.

Children need to be introduced to technology, they have to know how to use it to compete in the world, but as parents we need to find a way to stop the technology from harming instead of helping our kids. Do kids really need a cell phone? Do kids really need to have the ability to text their friends 24 hours a day 7 days a week? Do we really need to just give them technology to entertain them so they are quiet?

There are only 24 hours in a day. As technology takes up more and more hours per day, it pushes other things out. We need to make sure that technology does not push the import things out of our lives. Technology should not replace family and religion.

Comments

  1. Great article. I couldn’t agree more with you. Technology has definitely taken a large amount of time out of my day, which I could be using for better things. I only play select video games and tend to keep them to a minimum, I find myself mostly using my tablet for reading news articles. There’s just so much information, that reading online news can take hours out of your day.

    To keep myself active, I walk to and from work, the walk is roughly 30 minutes. I prefer to walk over public transit(I don’t own a car).

    I still haven’t grasped the entire “texting” thing, and still prefer a human connection. I boycott websites like Facebook(for more than one reason). I only text if I need to send out a quick message to a friend(reason texting was invented), and use Email to replace snail mail. I rarely talk on the phone or chat online, and would rather speak directly to the person. Some people find this odd of me, since I essentially grew up with technology(I’m 28), but I try to have a “human connection” as much as possible and only use technology when needed for communication. I am in I.T. just like yourself.

    Something I noticed you did not mention is that there are some very very unfortunate families out there where they allow their kids to play rated ‘M’ games and be Online almost all the time. This online goes as far as the kids only friends are online… If a kids only friends exist online, this is not very healthy for the child and how he or she will develop. This is my larges nitpick about online gaming and why I completely avoid online gaming. The time I spend with my friends and family, are with my friends and family, not with the technology. If I’m alone and nobodies around, I may slip in an hour or so of my favorite RPG game. I really enjoy the story telling in these types of games, it’s like a book, just interactive. I grew up with the wonder choose-your-own-adventure books, and still enjoy text-adventure games.

    Before my comment surpassed the length of your article, I’ll stop here. I could write on and on about this subject to the end of days. I like technology, but I still see what it is doing to us, and rather than during a blind eye and embracing every bit of it, I go in cautiously and embrace only what I need to consume.

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