Slaves to technology? A cautionary tale
by Judy Elliott
May 18, 2014 12:18 AM | 963 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I watched a YouTube video this week, shared by a friend who included her take on the film. “Maybe this guy will save the human race,” she wrote.

“This guy’s” concern was (is) the isolation caused by social media. “We spend hours together with no eye contact,” he reminds us. “Can we step away from looking down at our phones and take in our surroundings? Can we entertain children without an iPad?”

He illustrated his point with a cautionary tale. A boy, with no smartphone to guide him, loses his way in a London neighborhood. He asks directions from a lovely stranger, who not only has beautiful blue eyes, but is helpful. She walks with him to the address he is seeking. They have dinner. A courtship follows, then marriage, a baby. Later, there is a scene of the young man in the future, holding the hand of the lovely stranger, his wife of decades. Theirs, a picture of devotion.

Would the relationship have happened if the young man had depended on technology to lead him on? Would he have met the lovely stranger? You get the message.

We could roll our eyes, calling the YouTube video “preachy,” using drama as a teachable moment. That is, IF, in the neighborhood, there had not been those pre-school twins in the two-seat stroller, each with her nose inches away from an iPad, both oblivious to the flowering trees of spring, blooming around them.

Maybe “slaves to technology” is too strong a description for those too busy looking down to check messages to look up and embrace life, but the charge of “no emotion in the social isolation of today’s technology” does touch a nerve.

My grandchildren were miserable during the short time I insisted there would be no cellphones, iPads or TV when they were at our house for family gatherings. The get-togethers felt more like wakes than national holidays. I finally gave up my fantasy of conversations shared by three generations sitting on the porch and confined my grandparent rule to no technology at the dinner table!

That was doable! Yet last summer on a family beach vacation, I looked around at the near and dear to see five heads bent over cellphones as the scene of a miracle-sized moon creeping up over the ocean shed its light. No one in our group glanced in the moon’s direction.

You’re right. I am not immune to the charms of a warm iPad. The night before the moonrise, I sat, transfixed, as my son pulled up an app on his iPad, duplicating the night sky we were seeing, the Milky Way above us. “How does the iPad know?” I murmured.

Recently, we have been sobered by personal attachment to a smartphone, as a photo of a thief grabbing a phone and running showed the owner racing after him, perhaps putting his life in danger. In California, a company has invented the ultimate payback. Report the theft (from a borrowed phone) and the stolen phone is silenced, at once and forever.

Maybe doses of the familiar will remind us technology is a poor substitute for eye contact. Remember when email was the tech-love of our lives? No waiting for stamped envelopes to appear in inboxes, no “leave a message” edicts. Hit the key and an instant response was at our fingertips: “Save” “Delete” “Respond”! We were in charge!

Now, we check the tally of daily emails and groan! A hundred messages, five worth reading. We may be a people of instant communication, but it is not all to our liking. Still, there are rules. When friends eat dinner, phones are silenced, placed in the middle of the table. Pick up your cellphone. The bill is yours!

Gives new meaning to: “Put your money where your mouth is!” Muting cellphones during a time for conversation means we buy into the making of a good relationship: Show up. Listen. Try to make a difference.

Judy Elliott is a longtime resident of Marietta.
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