This started out as a sentence or two about texting and morphed into a treatise on technological advancement. Alright, some hyperbole there. It’s more of a jumble of thoughts on my very confused relationship with technology in general. Our culture’s obsession with constant connection (Twitter, Facebook, Skype, you name it) entraps me. On one side, I realize that functioning in today’s society requires a standard level of open access- I must be available by phone (not the best option because it’s almost like meeting face-to-face), or email (it’s more removed so it’s better), or text (yes, the best option by far). Texting is most preferable because it best transfers information efficiently sans the verbal fluff. You don’t have to engage in boring small talk, superfluous flattery or beat around the bush. While it is possible to do those things through texting, it’s acceptable, even expected at times, to avoid it.
And then on the other side, I feel completely enslaved to my little droid phone. And I’ll be the first to admit, I most definitely get sucked in. “Drrrroid” sounds out when I get a text or an email. Ooh, someone contacted me! Who is it? Is it urgent? I better stop talking to this person for one second as I reach down quickly press the power button, say “I’m so sorry, just one second” swipe my phone unlocked, click on the message, read it, put it away, and as I turn back to the person at present, I’m debriefing the contents of the text message in my head. How quickly do I need to text back? I need to text back right now because she’s unsure where to park. How do I interrupt this pseudo-conversation and take the time to text her back?? A text creates more ripples than we think it does. We think its pretty inconsequential while in fact, it can drastically change the way we interact with people, and flip our priorities upside-down.
And I wonder what did we do before texting? It’s like the common question, what did we do before cell phones? People just figured things out. We adapted. We found a parking spot somewhere.
Once a woman at my workplace, someone I barely knew, came up to me and said she had a dream with me in it. And, according to her, most of her “warning” dreams came true. She dreamed I was texting while crossing the street. Then, she dreamed I walked out of a hospital all bandaged up. This sufficiently freaked me out for a couple of hours, but then I gave it up to the Lord, saying, “God, I don’t normally text as I cross the street, but now I’ll be extra careful…but, I know you don’t want me to have a spirit of fear. So, I’m going to let it go.” It was weird and I don’t really buy that woman and her dreams (it was the way she told me, all eerie-like), but it has made me think about the dangers of texting, especially in cars, near cars, or places where distractions can be fatal.
I was talking to some friends yesterday who commented on the scary increase in texting that they see around them. They saw someone at a table, amongst a group of friends who were hanging out, and she was texting with her phone down, out of sight. It seemed she knew it was wrong to check out of her friends’ conversation, but she did it anyway. As if keeping the phone lower and out of sight negates her message that “you all are less important than this text”. I think the rule of the crossword puzzle is best: if you wouldn’t take out a crossword puzzle at that moment and work on it, then you should not be taking out your phone and texting someone.
The trade-off is clear. Let’s either be in a less information driven world with more attentiveness to the present, or in a world full of new information and be half-way committed, half-way involved people. To me, the first option is leagues more appealing. My heart longs for disconnection from fake connection. Right now I’m reading a fascinating book called “How To Read A Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles VanDoren and they speak well on the contrast between gleaning information and gaining understanding: “Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to and insofar as knowledge is prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.” It’s true–I can go on my laptop and within 30 seconds I can receive a wealth of information on any subject. To find true understanding in a person is a much rarer thing.
Some people I know have worked out a pretty healthy relationship with technology themselves. Some refuse to join Facebook and I respect that decision so much. I keep saying that one day I will follow in their footsteps, but I love photography, it’s difficult to give that part of it up. Also, I met a couple at L’Abri that was working to make their lives completely screen-less. Yet they struggled because the husband was a professor and his job depends on his computer writing and email connection. Perhaps it comes down to extreme discipline. When it’s work time, it’s time to be on the computer. But once the work is done for the day, power down the screens and stick to the plan you’ve set. It was helpful for me at L’Abri to have only 2 days a week of designated computer access. But L’Abri enforced that rule, without the aid of that community, I’m fending for myself. And it’s been difficult finding the right routine for me, as well as keeping it.
I know it’s ironic that I’m posting these thoughts on a BLOG (a modern techy version of an old fashioned journal). Maybe, without a blog or laptop, I’d be writing with a paper and pencil, and then just sharing my thoughts with those closest or who happen to come in contact with me. I think that would be better. It’s really not about how many people I come in contact with, but the quality of those interactions I have, no matter how few they may be. But for now, I’m still caught in between. I’m caught in between being a member of this up-to-date society and a desire to be connected in the real sense of the word–face to face in the present moment.
A relevant car commercial that points out the difference in generations:
p.s. I’ve only just realized that this whole post reveals a hint of my dichotomous thinking again. I honestly don’t think all texting is “bad”. I’m struggling though figuring out its role in my life and in which ways it’s more helpful than harmful. My mom pointed out to me tonight how texting can bring people together in ways that perviously they might not have. True, true. Nothing’s black and white. Sometimes that frustrates me. Why do I want to simplify things so when God created His creation to be complex? Forgive my dichotomous thinking as I work things out…it’s one of my old ghosts that likes to creep up on me every so often.