Brave "New" World

Technology is such a giant part of the world today that it’s harder for me to remember when the Internet was only a new, emerging thing. I can, however, remember my time as an eight year old when my family had walked into the local Electronics Boutique, about twenty minutes from our home in Oil City, Pennsylvania—a small place with charm—to ask about a computer with a bigger internal memory and some educational games for me.

My dad, concerned for my education, wanted to make sure my brain wasn’t rotting from too much exposure to our new Nintendo 64. The guy at the counter of Electronics Boutique said something mysterious to my dad, something like, “The biggest memory you’re going to find is eight megabytes.”

At the time, I did not understand what the guy had told my dad, but of course, as an adult, now I do. And, yes, it occurs to me that an eight megabyte hard drive would not survive in today’s fast-paced, data-gathering world. In fact, my dad often retells the story I just told with a shake of his head and a chuckle, as though it’s ludicrous to believe such a computer ever existed.

Imagine, then, my shock, a few years after the computer incident at Electronics Boutique, when the cell phone showed up, and it could do things called “text” and “email.” I preferred using the family’s newer laptop, which seemed to outperform the clunky old desktop mentioned earlier. My childhood friend, however, clung to her flip phone as though it contained everything important to her in the world. I envied her a little, because the phone meant that she had something cooler than I did, but beyond that childish notion, I saw no use for such a device. Landlines worked just as well, in my opinion.

In the present, as an adult, I’ve been forced into the tides of having some of the latest and greatest technology at my disposal. My laptop, for a comparison to late 90’s tech, has a whopping six hundred seventy three gigabytes of hard drive. Four hundred and ninety of those gigabytes are free for me to fill with a flood of words, pictures, and information. However, some of us fall more gracefully into the flow of technology than others. My husband, for example, has a golden Iphone 5 and often downloads free games and thinks of ways to make technology work better. That way of thinking is in stark contrast to my thought of “My Android smartphone works just as well, and sometimes, I wish things could go back to the way they used to be.”

Regardless, I live in the age where Skype and Face Time connect the world like never before. Technology helps me talk to my friends who live in Japan, as well as keeps me up to date with family life. I am blessed to be able to be connected to others in such a way, but it will never replace being with my friends or my family without the use of a screen.

I don’t text while I’m talking with a friend in person—in part because I’m a complete introvert and value people, and in part because I was raised well enough to know that one does not talk or text on any phone while seeing someone in person—because it angers me so that we transformed into a society that is mainly fixated on doing more than one thing at once, like it’s the newest, coolest thing to be doing. Multitasking is not new or cool; it’s overrun our ability to slow down and relax with our loved ones and friends.

For example, my husband thinks he can multitask by having a conversation with me while playing around on his smartphone. Our conversations, when he is in such moods generally go like this, “Honey, what do you think of taking a walk with me tomorrow, if you’re off from work?”

His index finger rises in the air similar to the way my mother’s did whenever she talked on the landline at home when I was a child. He glances up from his game a good three to five minutes later, which is longer than the upraised finger promised me I would have his attention by, and says, “What?” He quickly turns back to his business on the phone, just as I repeat my question, resulting in a loop of me asking the same question a good five to ten times before he finally responds with an answer that is not “What?”

To clarify, my husband is a sweet, caring, strong man who has technology, math and science at his core in the same way that words, cultures, and languages make up my core. I cannot blame him for being who he is, and he is able to appreciate and understand my archaic soul when I ask to spend time with him outside without the phones. He normally complies to such requests.

He works on paying attention to me when I ask him questions, and I work on giving him the time he needs, even if I don’t understand the notion of relaxing by constantly being plugged into a mobile game. I prefer console systems. They turn on and allow me to go on adventures until I turn them off to face the real world again.

However, even though I understand that technology is a part of this world, it concerns me. Logically, if everything advances so quickly that the new things become old within a few years of having the new thing, what happens when we can’t keep up? My high school math teacher had an interesting take on the human race by saying, “Maybe we’ll lose our vocal cords, grow gills, and obtain an extra pair of thumbs.”

I doubt that evolution will take place in humans, but such an observation tells me a lot about where humans are headed. We already more or less talk with our thumbs and not our voices, so our uniqueness is lost in a world of shallowness and opinions more often than it should be. I have honed my voice on paper because I’m a writer, but what does it mean to lose a voice when one isn’t a writer at the core, but merely a texter and a skimmer of words?

At times, I feel sad for the new generations, because they will need someone to tell them that playing and being a child and not knowing everything that this world offers us through technology is normal. Someone needs to say that you are more than a number or another multitasker, because the children of the future are being born into a world strangely and somewhat sorrowfully different than my own, where metal and chatter overshadows the trees and the voices of nature. Someone will need to tell them: You are a human being with a voice and a beautiful mind, so put down the phone, unplug, and live. Breathe. Form your own opinions, because you matter.