As I sit down to the keyboard to write this blog I log off of my Twitter account and minimize my Facebook page, my iPhone pings out loud to alert me that I have received yet another email in my inbox. I pick up the phone and check it immediately. Like Pavlov, his chimes, and his hungry dog, it has become second nature to me. It is an email for a whopping 5% off of diapers.
When I think about the technology of modern times, I think about my grandfather who is no longer alive on this earth but he was someone who adored modern invention. When I look back upon his life and the ninety-two years that it spanned, it must have been an amazing journey to see the evolution of paved roads, the automobile, air travel, and the microwave oven. My Pop witnessed not just the development of the television but the very beginnings of a black and white fuzzy box with thick wires and silver bunny ears evolve into sleek screens with remote controls with VCRs and even DVDs. I wonder what he would now think of Skype and Facetime, of being able to take a picture of a bank check to deposit it, and being able to check the stock market when you’re out at the supermarket with just the click of the phone.
It isn’t just about the generations of yesteryear though. As a young girl in computer class in my Catholic grammar school, I patiently took turns inserting a floppy disc into a computer that flashed a black and orange screen. My nervous computer teacher would command the class, “Don’t ever put your fingers on the center of the disc.”, lest I singlehandedly impede the progress of the entire third-grade class with a slip of my forefinger. Now my own daughters who will soon enter grammar school will never know what a floppy disc is. They also won’t know what it means to have to get up from the couch to change the TV channel, what it is like for their parents to remind them to get off of AOL because they are waiting for a call, or having their mom embarrassingly pick up the other end of the house line while they secretly talk to boys on the phone in their room.
Granted, there is the dark side to modern convenience that I escaped, as well. I will never know what it is like to be dumped by a boyfriend in a text. I’ll never experience an argument over a relationship status on Facebook. It’s complicated. You can quit a job, cancel plans on a friend, or end a relationship, all with the click of a send button. There is something lost in the forced face-to face or even in the phone-to-phone confrontation though. There was something to be said for the nervous knot in your stomach because you feared calling your best friend to cancel last-minute. Life has made it easier for those who fear confrontation to avoid it altogether.
Perhaps the worst side of modern technology is, quite ironically, that it impedes our ability to stay connected. And I know you know what I mean. Everyone knows someone like this or has someone even in their own immediate family who is guilty of this. I call this person “the social stenographer”. This person sits at family gatherings or at a restaurant with his or her smartphone held low and texts. They just don’t reply to one or two texts but sit there typing fastidiously with four fingers. At first, I have even tried questioning the person out of sheer curiosity. “What are you doing?”, I’d ask. No response. “Are you playing Tetris?” No response. “Are you sealing an important deal?” To which that distracted individual often responds with a “What?” simply because she didn’t hear me. She is so busy posting status updates, sending pics, making jokes, tweeting thoughts, texting friends, and staying connected that she is failing to stay connected in the moment. We continue to have half-hearted dialogue which serves as filler in between the texts to the rest of the world. She is missing the present moment entirely, and I am quite honestly, wasting my time.
My husband, Joe, is a person who is very professionally dependent upon technology. Without the Internet, the cell phone, and most other modern conveniences, I cannot imagine how his business (a luxury transportation company – newjerseylimobus.com) would operate. I imagine he would be glued to his desk in his office until the wee hours of the night answering his phone and missing a lot of pee-wee tee ball games if the year wasn’t 2012 and Jetson-esque technology wasn’t around. We, however, have found that there has to be a limit to tech-stuff in our home in order to preserve the quality of our life. Just as good fences make good neighbors, good boundaries make happy families. We have set the tech boundaries and found the old adage about having too much of a good thing to be true.
I love a good, crisp, dry Chardonnay as much as the next wine enthusiast. I realize though that just as too much dry white wine can make you drunk and unable to function, too much social media can impede your ability to experience the world all around you. It isn’t possible to immerse yourself at “play tea-party” with a three-year old while texting a friend about dinner plans. It isn’t possible to check emails and really watch a movie with your spouse. (The couple that watches cable together stays together. ) It is so very easy to forget that we work hard in our lives to have these small, quiet moments of peace rather than having these small moments of peace in our life to fill them with work.
Over two thousand years ago, a little heavy-set bald man referred to as Buddha taught about the importance of living in the present. The concept was not to live in the past and not to live in the future but to really focus on the here and now. Although this spiritual guru may not have known with great certainty that one day a man named Albert Gore Jr. was going to come along and invent the Internet and set technology into hyper speed, the same rule applies today just as much as it did over twenty-one centuries ago (and yes, I know Gore did not really invent the Internet and it was a group of very smart people at Stanford or UCLA or the US Dept of Defense or somewhere…I’m more interested in sociology than science).
Implicit in that Eastern teaching was instruction to NOT live in the “there and now” as well. In these multifaceted and complex times we live in, we must avoid the “there” when our minds and focus should be in the moment. Yes, we should email at work to make a living, email to keep in touch with our cousins across the country, and email to start an emotional and spiritual revolution that the world is so very in need of. We should do this though in our own time and not when we should be reading our kids a bedtime story, letting a colleague cry on our shoulder, or when catching up with an old dear friend at a local pub.
There is no doubt that life is full of important secrets and whispers that are ever so gently calling to us if we allow ourselves the silence and space to listen. I am a firm believer that fate is always whispering into our souls and tempting our spirits to wake up a bit more. When we are distracted we will miss these sweet nuisances in life and they are the nectar of our souls. While we are staring down at our smartphones, half-listening with dull hearts, we are missing life’s fine details, and indeed, God is in the details.
Although there are so many other thoughts on this dancing around in my own cluttered mind, I have to put this blog to rest and go play with my children whom I have been ignoring for the greater part of an hour now. It is time to log off for a bit and log into life. I encourage you to put down the tech and be in the present if only for an extra moment in a day. These small changes will have thunderous aftershocks on our spiritual frequencies I suspect.