Technology: The Unruly Child

Technology is like an unruly child. Who will take a stand to discipline this wild horse? Somehow it seems to me that the ever expanding realm of technology is the pink elephant in the room. I love technology. It fascinates me, and at the same time can cripple me. Isn’t that like being in an abusive relationship? Isn’t there something alarming about anything that “cripples” us or takes us over? Alright, I’m being a little dramatic here, but technology and how we use it really has taken over. I’m not a big fan of right or wrong scenarios, but rather a different paradigm in thinking which is more about a learning opportunity. Okay, so technology cripples me at times. The question then becomes what do I do with this paralysis?

Technology has, for the most part, made every part of our lives better. Electric cars help preserve our fossil fuels, cell phones and Skype allow us to connect with our loved ones around the world, and medical advances both improve and often extend our lifespans.

But, and this is a big but Becky, now technology allows us to carry our work computers home via our laptops. We always have one cell phone on us so we can receive work or personal calls everywhere we go, including bed and the bathroom. You know you’ve heard this scenario. You’re in a bathroom stall and the person next to you is on the phone. First, I don’t want to hear anything that’s happening in the stall next to me, up to and including someone’s phone conversation. Shut up/Get a room! We have texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any number of new technologies that will birth themselves in our lifetime still to come.

But of everything we receive, emails are the worst. Whether at home or work, emails are rampant. There are literally like a virus, they keep spreading and there’s no antibiotic that will stop them.

I’m old enough to have lived in a time without emails. There was a lot of paper used, but not nearly as much back and forth. It was a more clear and concise time for communicating, and something I strive to practice in my Facebook and email ecology. Less is more. I was a casting assistant at that time, and people actually talked to one another. It was the call that was key, not the email.

So here’s what I find happening with emails – they’re like one live conversation broken down over an extended time frame. If I wanted to handle something in a timely fashion I call. Communications of a business nature usually require a bit of exploration or questioning for clarification. One phone call can handle it. Emails have a tendency to go back and forth, and both parties usually get tired of typing. Oh, you know yourself, this happens all the time. Just when you think you’ve typed the last word another question. The big difference as I see it is there’s an extra step in email communication. You have to press send, and then you wait. If the office hottie walks by the person you’re emailing, games off. You could be waiting a long time before the attention is directed back at you. The same thing with a child, a spill, the UPS man. All will trump the email. Not on a phone call. The live conversation trumps email.

Also, emails require Japanese like gardening maintenance skills. You have to stay on top of them, or they grow like weeds. Eventually you’ll need a machete to cut through the overgrowth. You know how it goes, suddenly you have 4,000 emails in your Inbox and you have to call the National Guard for assistance. Yes, it’s a national emergency, but no one seems to be answering the call.

And every time a company asks me for my email I have to be damn sure I want to have an intimate relationship with them. The Gap, Starbucks, and Harry & David, know more about me than my internist. And they’re on my laptop, cell phone, and in my consciousness on a daily basis, until I break down staring at my computer screen trying to find the unsubscribe bottom which is camouflaged to keep me from ending this unsatisfying, one way relationship.

Think about it. It’s completely one sided. Harry & David are not two hot guys fighting over my love, no, they want my daily attention and whatever’s in my wallet. Oh, sure, they have delicious chocolate covered nuts, but they’re expensive. A fifty dollar bill at the minimum, and they tell me it’s for a good cause – my mother needs a basket of fresh fruit and candy, she is, after all, my mother. Starbucks tells me I can earn a star with each blended beverage of my choice this week between the hours of 2-5 PM. I’m just going to leave work, I need the stars.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I love my Starbucks, and my Harry and David. Starbucks even rewards me with free lattes and Harry and David are so generous with their $10 off my next purchase. But wouldn’t I shop at both places regardless? That’s a part of my question here about technology. I’ve got to advocate for less is more. I still use the same paper towels I was raised with. I haven’t seen a Bounty ad in years, but I still buy them. Yes, they are the quicker picker upper, and I learned that via a great advertising campaign years ago, but I don’t get emails.

My experience with technology is that when it happens, we jump for it, overuse it, level out, and eventually it finds its rightful place in our lives, usually. And we have to keep our eyes open at all times, because like a child, technology requires tending and loving discipline, otherwise it becomes unruly. Personally, I’ve found my rhythm with emails and my mainframe computer cell phone, but just as soon as that happens another piece of technology is birthed. For now, I’ll simply turn my ringer on silence, choose an out-of-office reply for emails, and pretend, for a moment, I’m Amish.