Saturday, October 6, 2012

Screens, Beeps and Auto-Correct

In the last, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10-20 years, there have been huge advancements in information technology...obviously. We have smart phones and tablets and Google and Wikipedia and texting and Bluetooth and wireless everything and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Netflix and i-this and i-that and i-am-missing-a-bunch,-i-know. We have screens and chargers and beeps and bleeps and buttons and touch screens and i-nformation and i-nstant communication.

OK—it’s really amazing. I really, honestly, often take a second or two to let it sink in that I really just emailed back-and-forth with someone across the world, that I have a friend on Facebook with the same last name as me in Holland who is not family and I’ve never met but we wish each other a “Happy Birthday” on our birthdays, that if I am watching a movie and recognize an actor but want to know what other movies he’s been in, I can IMDB that person and find out, that if I am listening to a song I love but don’t know who the artist is, I can “shazam” that song and find out, that if I am getting ideas for decorating a room, I can Google search something and find out things...phew—this sentence is tired, so it will end now! 

Yes, life today is full of conveniences, and the technologies that have become so commonplace allow for information and communication to be transferred and exchanged quickly, and allow for crisp images in movies and tons of things to experience online, and answers to millions of questions to appear at your fingertips.

The life of this picture of Emmett rockin' out: It was taken by Joel's phone, emailed to me, and then saved to my computer and posted to my blog, which now makes it accesible to anyone with an Internet connection. Obviously...but since I was born in the '80s, this is still really cool.
That, of course, is only one side of the two-sided coin (a coin that lights up and knows your name and has an automated flipping feature).

What’s on the other side?

Well, I have to confess that sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure to keep up with technology. I have had the same cell phone for almost two years, and it’s not a smart phone. Sometimes I ask myself, “Should I have a smart phone?” I can’t even transfer pictures I take from my phone to my computer! I only have room for 50 pictures on my phone! My message inbox and outbox get full so fast that I have to delete all my text messages every month or so! How prehistoric is that!

I don’t have an e-reader, and I’m thinking, is it time that I switched to one instead of reading regular books? Or do I love regular books enough to just keep burying my nose in them and turning those analogous paper pages?

Sometimes I wonder where the line is between holding on to “old technology” because it “works just fine and I like it and there’s nothing wrong with it” and keeping up with technology so you don’t ever become that person who would be lost trying to operate the latest computer, phone or tablet. 

Sometimes I also wonder at how dependent we have become on the type of information and communications “everyday” technology that is standard for most people. This year, Joel and I upgraded our TV and found ourselves dealing with (for the first time, yes, I know, we were kind of “late” with some of this) wireless routers and Netflix and Cinema Now (which, in my opinion, should be called Cinema Some Time) and home networks to which you can connect several devices. This was all amazing at first, but a couple of times, things have gone wrong. Lighting fried our router a couple months ago and we had to set everything up again, which was a nightmare. When we were without internet on our one computer, and couldn’t watch movies through our TV unless it was Cogeco On Demand (not Netflix), and couldn’t watch Youtube videos on our TV or look at photos from our computer on our TV, I felt really lost and frustrated...and subsequently felt kind of “gross” for feeling that way. (Ugh; there is so much going on in the world, that, all right, I felt downright terrible for getting annoyed with all of these technological inconveniences—a First World problem for sure.) What was originally really wonderful is now taken for granted.

I don’t know if you ever feel this way, but it’s kind of like a love-hate relationship with some forms of least with the ones I’ve mentioned above. As much as new things are amazing and revolutionary and make things easier and faster, they can be royal pains in the neck as well. At this point, given the amount of frustration I have had over this year with different things concerning computers, phones, connections, electronic this and digital that, I guess I feel a little hesitant to be wholeheartedly “for” all of this advancement—and then at the same time, I feel a little stressed about feeling that way because I don’t want to be behind the advancement and not understand how the newest things work and what they can do. I know we all have somewhat of a choice—we don’t have to use Facebook, and we don’t have to upgrade our phones every year, and we can spend our evenings reading a real book instead of facing a screen. However, I think that to keep up with and not get left behind the technological train, we can’t deny that this is part of the world we live in. We should take advantage of the great advancements in our lifetimes—because they really are stunning. I am just trying to find the balance between using them to my benefit and getting swallowed by them.

I wonder, then, with the speed of advancements and conveniences, where we will be in another 10-20 years. Are my kids going to want iPods and cell phones, or are they going to want something else because there will be something else a million times more functional than that? Will they say, “Oh my goodness, Mom, iPods are sooooo ancient!”

At what point do these conveniences become inconvenient? At what point does the speed of communication actually start slowing us down with how much of it we do? At what point does the sheer volume of information actually start weighing us down and incapacitating us under it?

P.S. I almost considered not posting this because I am thinking that at least one reader might be thinking, “OK, Christina, you said all that in a blog post that you typed up on your computer and posted a link to on Facebook...a little hypocritical, maybe?”

I hope not. I am going to take my chances because I think this proves my point. I might as well use these technological amenities to be able to gripe about their inconveniences and stresses, right? Isn’t that putting them to good use? Isn't that what they're there for?