Monday, June 26, 2006

Has Technology Truly Improved our Lives?

Has technology really improved our lives? That's the question I found myself asking last night while enjoying a nice little value menu meal at Wendy's. I had taken my six year old son, Brennan, and my five year old daughter, Leah, out for a few hours so that I could get some time with them and could give Lori a break with only our two year old, Jason, at home. After waiting way too long in line for our meal, I finally got up to the counter. And as seems to be custom nowadays, the girl at the register gave me an almost annoyed look as if I was somehow interrupting her life by ordering my cheeseburger deluxes and chicken nuggets.

With no smile or cheerfulness, she said, "Can I take your order" in a monotone voice. She slowly punched in my request and meandered over to the drink machine to get our sodas. While waiting for our burgers to get made (I guess they had to kill the cows or something), she proceeded to take a call from a friend on her cell phone, "What?" "No." "I'm at work" "I'll talk to you later." Wasn't a long conversation, but was it really necessary? What was so absolutely important that she had to take that phone call rather than get me my Frosty?

I finally got back to the table and the kids expressed to me how long it took to get the food. I agreed with them and we then got into a conversation about cell phones and computers and other forms of technology. I shared with them how when I was their age there were no cell phones, no e-mail, no games on the internet, and no cable TV. I asked them, "What do you think everybody did with their time?" Brennan responded, "They played all the time!" His answer probably wasn't too far from the truth.

While there have been many benefits that have come about because of technology, do you think our lives are fundamentally better? Do families spend more time together and do people connect on a deeper level in this age of iPods and the internet? I don't think so. Conversations that used to be held face-to-face or even over the phone are now replaced by e-mails and text messages. Families playing a board game together has now been replaced by dad watching Sports Center in the den, mom watching QVC in the kitchen, junior playing Halo on his PS2 and daughter talking with some 45 year old guy on MySpace.

It seems that we're more emotionally messed up, that parents don't know how to connect with their kids, dating tactics are just plain weird and it seems that we don't know how to interact with one another anymore. Is technology solely to blame? Of course not. In fact, I'm using a fairly new form of technology right now to communicate my thoughts on this issue. Technology has allowed millions of people all over the world to visit in order to have their questions about Christianity answered. I'm even able to use a webcam to see and talk to my sister, Kelly, and her family thousand of miles away in Japan.

But am I the only person who is growing weary of the interruptions of cell phone calls into our daily lives? And why is it that it seems like every third driver that I pass on the road is busy yapping away on their cell phone? Are these conversations really that important that it can't wait ten minutes until they get home? I'm concerned that my Christian witness may not be that positive if I ever do get broadsided by a soccer mom driving an oversized SUV that is trying to make a left hand turn while talking on her cell.

I'm also tired of being deep conversations with a friend or co-worker only to be interrupted by the chirp of a cell phone. Although this is an intrusion to the conversation, it's a common occurence for the guilty party to take the call without so much as a "Do you mind if I take this call?" It's as if someone walked up to the table, did not ask to interrupt, and proceeded to talk for five minutes. It's rude and frequently changes the mood of a conversation. I'm sure we've all heard our fair share of cell phones go off in church, plays, restaurants, movie theatres and offices. And they always seem to have those annoying ringtones. You may want to check out this site with some suggestions for cell phone ettiquette if you may be feeling convicted right now :).

As I mentioned there are some positive influences that technology has had. But when you look at the state of the world and the emotional well-being of most individuals, it would be hard to argue that our lives are better. Easier in some ways, yes. But not really better. We are beginning to allow the noise and busyness of life to affect how we interact with others. As with most things, technological advances are inherently morally neutral. It depends on how we use them.

Let's just remember that people are still the same as they were years ago. We long for relationship with God and with others. We should never let technology get in the way of meeting our basic needs of relationship with God and others. Maybe tonight we can turn off the T.V., ignore the computer, not listen to the iPod and just sit and talk with a friend or your family or spend some time alone with God. I promise you that you won't regret it.

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1 comment:

crock said...

I completely agree with you...I love the webcam. Believe it or not, most of our friends here don't have cell phones, and it was a bit of "culture shock" last month while we were in Hawaii with the technology overload. I've been annoyed at myself when I spend time IM'ing with people - when it's really easier to just pick up the phone and call.
Great post!