Technology: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

I just had another reminder of why I sometimes have “severe and irrational” reactions to technology.  There are very few things that make me “lose it” emotionally.  Dangerous drivers and technology issues are the ones that will get me riled up every time!  I have been working really hard on the “Road Rage” issue and have actually been doing pretty well with that.  But it might take professional help to cure me of my technology woes.

As Secretary of The Board in my condominium, I am responsible for writing the quarterly Newsletter .  I love writing it and I love the fact the almost everyone in the building appreciates being kept up to date on our issues and news.  I get wonderful letters from Owners and Residents letting me know how much they appreciate the updates and information they receive in the Newsletters.

This morning I received an email from someone in my condominium regarding an item in the most recent Newsletter.  The author of this email is a very intelligent man…he is passionate about issues that are important to him.  He is also one of those people who tend to think they are ALWAYS right.  He also focuses on the negatives rather than the positives.  Although his email contained some positives, it also contained what I called a “rant” about an policy change he felt was not in the best interests of our community.  Because this particular man has been “complaining” for the last seventeen years, the Board, does not take his “rants” too seriously.  He always receives a response to his letters, explaining why the Board has made whatever decision was necessary.

After reading this particular email, I did what I always do… forward it to the Chairman of the Board with my comments.  At least that is what I thought I did.  Unfortunately, I replied to the sender rather than forwarding the email.  In my short message to the Chair, I called the email from the Owner a “rant” and asked if I should print it to put it in his file.  I then hit send and took the first sip of my morning coffee.

My heart started pounding and I started perspiring and I realized that I had hit “reply” rather than “forward”.  Instant migraine!  How I wished I could “take it back”, “undo” what I had done.  Although I had not said anything terrible in my response, I was afraid that the writer of the email might take offence and think we were singling him out by keeping a file on him, when in fact ALL letters the Board receives are kept on file.

The Chairman of the Board, being very “Chairman-like” was out playing golf this morning.  I had two choices of how to proceed with the resolution to my problem.  I could either wait until the Chairman got home and get his advice on how to handle this situation or I could write an apology and explanation to the Owner who wrote the letter. I chose the latter. Hopefully my apology will be accepted and my explanation understood.

Now on to how and why I feel the way I do about technology and why it is the major trigger for highly irrational emotional responses from me.  First I will tell you why I love technology (The Good in the title of this piece) and I do love it!  Without the advances in technology today, life would be so different and a lot more “work” for all of us.  I praise these advances every single day.  Almost everything we do on a daily basis is made easier by technology.  Hooray for this!!!

Notice I said “almost” everything we do.  Now comes the “Bad” in the title.  As an educator and a writer, I feel that word processing has created generations of people who cannot write an intelligent sentence much less anything longer.  Letter writing is a “lost” art.  How many people write (yes, by hand) letters anymore, with the possible exception of the “Christmas” enclosure in cards sent to old friends and family from afar?  I have to admit that even I do not write letters anymore, at least in the same way I wrote them until about twenty years ago.  I write them, butI send them in emails as they are received instantly and this is what people seem to expect nowadays.  I frequently ask myself why it is so important for the recipient to receive a letter “instantly” and I can never come up with a satisfactory answer.  Instant gratification, possibly?   I do not put these missives in envelopes, stamp and deposit them in a mailbox.  I don’t think the reason for this is laziness on my part.  I perceive that others prefer this format and for that reason only, I send them by email.

When I was a little girl, before I even entered school, my grandfather would have to be away,  for medical reasons,  for many months of the year.  He wrote me letters every single week while he was away.  I was not able to read yet so my mother would read his letters to me over and over, as I never tired of hearing what he had to say.  Then I would dictate a letter in  response and my mother would mail it to my Gramps in North Carolina.  He often told me how much my letters meant to him and how they kept his spirits up while at Duke University Hospital.

Decades later, when moving my mom from her home in Florida to her new home in Seattle, near my brother, I found two of the letters my grandfather had written to me when I was four years old.  This was, for me, like finding a priceless treasure.  Although the ink has faded a bit, the letters are legible and my intention is to laminate them to prevent further fading.  I have made a promise to myself that I will write letters to both my grandchildren, even though we live in the same town.  I hope that one day, they will treasure these letters as much as I treasure the ones from my grandfather.

Now for my opinion about the “Ugly” part of technology.  I have a few issues that I feel are cause for concern.  The first is based on my observations about children and their interactions with technology.  I retired from teaching in 2003.  Even then, technology was changing children in various ways.  There were many positive ways that technology was starting to be used in the elementary schools.  I would hate for anyone to think that there are NO positive influences of technological advances in the education of our children.  Learning how to use computers to research, word processing for children with certain learning disabilities, and connecting children with each other all over the world are amazingly wonderful benefits of technology.

I started noticing that some of the children I taught didn’t seem to have very good imaginations.  That stunned me.  When I was a child, I was encouraged to use my imagination when playing.  I played School.  I played Library.  I played Grocery Store.  I made up plays and found neighborhood children to be the actors.  I did watch television, but not a lot.  I interacted with people, not cell phones or tablets or computers.  I played board games, not electronic games.  I find that now, young children, even as young as two years old, know how to use a cell phone or tablet to look at photos or videos.  So many young children are spending too much time on their electronic devices and the end result is that they don’t “imagine” anymore.  When they are asked to imagine what might happen in a hypothetical situation, they have no clue.  Creative writing by elementary school children was becoming a struggle even before I retired.  Children wanted to write about the games they were playing on their Nintendos or other devices, IF they wanted to write at all.  I think this is a very sad situation and I do blame technology for this.

I have actually had friends ask me when my granddaughter will be given her first cell phone.  She is four years old and will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  Seriously????  Why would any child that young need a cell phone, I asked my friends.  The response was always the same…in case of emergencies.  Don’t schools have phones in the offices anymore where parents could speak to a “real, live” person in case of emergencies?  I sure hope they do.

Another big “UGLY” for me is the simple fact that technology sometimes makes it easier to scam people, especially some “seniors” who are not quite as “computer literate” as others.  Unfortunately technology makes it easier for criminals of various kinds to do their work.  I think most people know know that anything the put on social media is available to almost anyone, whether they are “friends” or not.  But what I don’t think many of the younger generation understands is that whatever they post may potentially cost them a job in the future.  It is also very easy to send emails or texts to people who are not the intended recipient, as I did earlier today.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate technology at all.  I actually love it…when all the hardware is working properly.  But when there are problems that I can’t solve with hardware or software issues, it triggers a response in me that I am not proud of…at all.  I am so glad to have people in my life who can solve these issues for me if I cannot do it on my own.

The long and short of it is that we do need technology in our lives, but we also need to try to be less “connected” all the time.  In the good old days, if people phoned and you weren’t home, they just called you back…no voicemail, no answering machines, no cell phones that vibrate in your pockets or purses.  I don’t believe that there are many people who absolutely need to be “connected” all the time.

How many of you have been out for a meal in a restaurant and seen whole families at a table where every single one of them are doing something on their cell phones?  I have seen that more times than I can count.  They don’t talk to each other.  They don’t interact with each other in any way.  In these instances, technology is not bringing people closer together, as social media may do, but actually creating a generation of people who do not know how to interact with each other.  Is this good for families?  In my opinion it is not.  As parents or grandparents it is our responsibility to remind those we care about that actual human interactions are what is most important.

My message to you today is to use technology in ways that will help you and enrich your lives, but make sure that you do not lose the human connection.  The most important thing we all must do is to help the younger generation understand that is is relationships with people, communicating in actual face to face situations, that will enrich their lives the most.  Don’t throw out the computers or cell phones or tablets, but don’t forget how to talk to people and try to help the younger generations understand how important written communication is as well.

One thought on “Technology: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

  1. Joseph says:

    Bravo! I also have observed the examples of the dominance of text messages and IM’s replacing face to face or voice to voice communications. Aside from the abysmal use , or lack of it, of punctuation which muddles text, the lack of intonation allows for a large potential for error. There is something about hearing a human voice that text cannot replace.

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