Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Paradox of Technology

I suspect that we all know of people who long for the simpler days of old.  Perhaps you are old enough to remember when a family had one telephone available to them, it was plugged into the wall, had a long curly cord, and you might have used it once or twice a day.  Now we have a phone, actually a super computer, in our pockets with us 24x7 and we interact with others possibly 100’s, for some maybe 1000’s, of times a day.  We try to keep up with the flows of our Facebook flickr - langwitches - Learning then and Nowcommunity, Twitter streams, Text messages, phone calls, Face Times, email messages, SnapChats, Pins, Skypes, etc.  It is overwhelming isn’t it.  Oh for the good ol’ days of the one phone, you know the one where you ‘dialed’ the number and hated numbers with “0” in them.  You know, when you had to wait when the party line was on a call. 

That may be a simplistic example but with all our technological advancements there are benefits and consequences.  For those of us on this planet who have been fortunate to enjoy these advancements, I believe overall, our lives are better off.  Technology has not overwhelmed us or made live unbearable as some might have us believe.  Rather, we have overwhelmed us by allowing our technology to control us when it should be the other way around.  Why do some of us like to blame the accessibility technology creates for us, as the reason we are stressed out?  Technology is meant to make life simpler, reduce our workloads, make it easier to communicate, make us more efficient, give us time back, create new opportunities, etc.  If so, what are we doing wrong ‘cause that’s not what a lot of people seem to experience. 

Think about how much time we spend hunting and gathering relative to our ancestors or to those in poorer countries without the benefits of technology.  Think about how much leisure time you have.  Sure you might think you have very little but that may be just how you allocate your time to your kids, spouse, or how you let your work consume you.  Maybe you are addicted to Facebook or other online 20140730_165352917_iOSspaces.  Technology certainly plays a role in enabling us to do more, communicate more, and consume more (information) but it is really our choice in how balanced or imbalanced we become with our technology use.  Get outdoors and use your tech to capture and share the beauty of our environment!

This summer I decided to take a Facebook holiday for 3 weeks.  I didn’t check my feeds, ‘like’ any posts, or share the wonderful things I was up to.  I was kind-of getting tired of feeling the need to stay tuned into the lives of those I’ve friended.  It was great to take a break.  I often do the same with Twitter, email, and other communication tools.  What I can’t see myself giving up though are all the other tools that help me find places, discover recipes, read or listen to books, listen to music, write out my thoughts and notes, arrange events, research and plan trips, track budgets and expenditures, pay bills, etc.  I remember when Shelley and I first got married.  I got the job of dealing with the finances… I used a paper log to track our bills, their amount, due date, etc. and would refer to it so I knew when to write the cheques and get them into envelopes with stamps and off to the mailbox.  I reconciled our cheque book using a hand calculator and piece of paper.  I used to have to deposit our pay-cheques by driving to the bank and waiting in a line.  It was painful and tedious.  Now almost all of our bills are automatically paid, pay-cheques are deposited automatically, other bills are paid online on a specified date via the bank website.  Recently I have been able to deposit cheques via my phone by taking a picture – it goes into our account immediately.  I use a spreadsheet to track our budget and expenses and to reconcile our cheque book and it takes minutes to do.  This is way better than the pre-technology era.

I was mountain biking yesterday with a friend and we got to talking about buying bike parts.  I’ve always bought at local shops but he got me thinking about how much markup there is and how much I could save buying online.  I said I needed a new front bike tire soon and he said lets combine an order – we’ll get free shipping to Canada from the UK for an order over $99.  I asked him what sites he uses and later he texted me the web addresses when I plugged into my computer browser to search out the tires (tyres in the UK) I wanted.  I found them, emailed him the link and he put in the order.  The tire cost nearly 1/3 what I paid in a local shop!  How simple is that and how cool to save that much on the cost?  I like shopping local, to support the local economy, but when prices are marked up that much, using technology saves me money and time.

Play Blocks With LettersSo what’s my point you ask.  I think the advancement of technology has created huge opportunities and benefits but also has caused great difficulties for some people to manage their lives.  It makes it hard to be and feel balanced.  Technology is agnostic, it is neither good nor evil so let’s not blame the technology, rather let’s be more thoughtful about how we take charge of our time, our behaviors, and priorities.  Use technology to its fullest to make your life better.  Let’s teach and help each other maximize our use of our technology while maximizing the quality of our lives.  Learn to be the boss of your tech and leverage its power for the better! [image: © iStockPhoto #000008477174]