I’ve always had an interest in technology, something of a gentle love affair with the inventions derived from scientific discovery. My feelings could best be summed up by a few verses from the movie, “Napoleon Dynamite,” which I will save for later.
I think the most pervasive piece of recent technology is the cellular phone. Never have so many people said so little of significance, over such a long period of time, since the advent of constant access to telecommunications. Cell phones have made it much easier to make an emergency phone call which in turn has become the greatest justification for children to own a cellular phone. I think most children would define an emergency very differently than their parents’, in either case they both feel they can justify the phone, just from a different perspective. I believe most phone conversations from child to child involve circumventing parental authority while most cell phone conversations children have with their parents involve begging forgiveness as opposed to asking permission.
In my own life, technology is both good and bad. It’s great that I can sit and watch the weather constantly during a storm but bad that I ignore my wife while doing so. It’s good that I can purchase what I need more cheaply on the internet but bad that I almost purchased a really nice, tractor-trailer in Nebraska that I did not need in a fit of Ebay-euphoria. Most of my internet use deals with; research for my column, paying bills, watching old music videos, visits to agriculture extension websites and communication with family and friends. I do still occasionally visit Ebay but only under strict adult supervision.
Some scoff at technology, however our modes of communication change as time marches on, whether we choose to keep step or not. I hear people speak of how they refuse to accept new technology such as cell phones or internet service. I’m sure people who communicated with smoke signals were reluctant to try the telegraph just as telegraph users rejected the telephone; my point is that new technologies are there to make communication easier. If a cell phone makes it easier to communicate or you can email a distant relative to stay close then these technologies are good. New technology is not cold nor does it undermine traditional values as long as it is used properly. I also think it’s a bit egocentric to make the rest of the world communicate on your terms instead of those accepted as standard to civilization.
I think a person who refuses to change only isolates himself and that you’re never too old to learn. My dad is 86 and he has a cell phone. He can also receive emails on his Presto email printer which he and my mom received one Christmas. Even though he can’t send emails, dad can receive them with the Presto printer and it’s very simple to use. It is a technology that fights one of the worse problems the elderly face; disconnection. When you are unable to communicate with a technology that everyone takes for granted, it’s like not being able to use one of your five senses, such as hearing which can lead to a feeling of isolation.
In the movie, “Napoleon Dynamite,” Napoleon’s brother falls in love on the internet. When he finally meets his new love in person he croons to her, “I love technology, but not as much as I love you.” For all of the scene’s intended silliness, it seems to me that he has the proper perspective on technology; a good means to connect with people but not an end in itself.