Is Technology The Sh*t Or Just Sh*t?

While vacationing recently, I was lounging poolside engrossed in my iPad next to my husband who was also busy using his iPad. A woman who had been drinking in the hot tub staggered up to us and slurred, “Come on people, turn off the electronic devices. You’re on holiday, relax. Loosen up. Live a little. Have some fun.” Then she teetered away to get another drink.

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Via Mankind Wake Up: Facebook

There are plenty of articles circulating about how electronic devices are mindless brain sucks breeding a generation of young people who won’t know how to communicate or interact with each other. One photo I saw (ironically, on social media) was a split screen of a group of kids one hundred years ago playing a ball game on the street juxtaposed with a group of children sitting on the couch wired into electronic devices. The caption on the top image where the children were playing: This is life. The caption on the bottom image where the children were fixated on their screens: This is sh*t.

That judgment is oversimplified and not fair. Nobody knows simply by viewing a snapshot what those children in the modern photo were doing on their electronic devices. Maybe the youngest one was solving digital puzzles. If she had been actually manipulating wood carved puzzle pieces as children did one hundred years ago, would that have been a more legitimate form of play?

Maybe the middle child was creating digital music on her laptop. If she had been sitting near the fireplace practicing her violin as they did one hundred years ago, would that have been a more acceptable form of musicality?

Maybe the oldest child was reading The Chronicles of Narnia on his screen. If he had been curled up on the couch reading a thick paper bound book as they did one hundred years ago, would anybody have called what he was doing sh*t?

It’s true, children should experience a balance of physical activity, creative play, and interaction with peers and nature. Are we to assume that because we see them playing on an electronic device that they didn’t just return from an invigorating game of hide-and-seek outside, or swimming, or a play date? Are we to assume that just because a snapshot is taken of a child on an electronic device that the child is chronically sedentary? Are we to assume that the child is playing a violent or mindless video game that will lead to anti-social tendencies and aggression?

The moment when the tipsy woman from the hot tub shared her social commentary with us, my husband was charting out our sight-seeing plan for the following day. He uses Apps to coordinate our train and boat schedules, pre-buy our tickets to tourist sites, check reviews for off-the-beaten-path restaurants, and map our routes. I was reading Dear Life by Alice Munro.

If I had been reading the Nobel Prize winning author’s critically acclaimed collection of short stories from a paper back book rather than a digital book, or if my husband had paper maps and tourist guides spread out on the table, would we have garnered the same critical judgement? I doubt it.

For a living I communicate and interact with people. Sometimes I like to have a break from that. My idea of a relaxing vacation includes reading a good book or two, editing and sharing the photographs I take, experiencing the culture of the place I’m visiting, and video calling with my family back home. All of these things are possible with the use of one electronic device. Sitting in a hot tub drinking all day with a bunch of strangers is obviously someone else’s idea of a relaxing vacation, but that doesn’t mean that what I do to relax is sh*t.

 

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4 thoughts on “Is Technology The Sh*t Or Just Sh*t?

  1. Danielle,

    Well done on another great post.
    A few thoughts come to mind. Never judge a book (or iPad) by its cover. Many of us are substituting paper for our digital versions of books nowadays because they offer us features and convenience that paper doesn’t. I still like the feel of paper when I’m reading anything lengthy though.

    Along the same lines of ‘judging’, as adults we are quick to criticize kids for being hooked into their computers and video games for long stretches. Take a moment and realize that they are connecting with friends and collaborating on strategy and we may be left pausing before we ask them to shut it off. I’d argue that they are learning some valuable skills of connecting that will be very important their futures. Do they need some physical exercise as well? Of course, but I suggest we pause before we assume.

    More importantly, based on the lady’s comment ‘live a little’, I’m guessing she assumed you were ‘working’ on your iPad. If so, she sees technology as work tool. This can be partly true, but it’s far from the full truth. The reality is that most people’s devices are part social, part professional. And they have simply become a part of the world we live in. If the lady resents the use of devices, I guess all I can say is ‘good luck’ because she will be quickly swept away and left behind, if she hasn’t already. For her to advocate against the use of technology also means she is sacrificing limitless interpersonal connections and a certain degree of professional flexibility that technology offers. Nowadays, people can take time out of the office and away from work because technology offers them this flexibility that they wouldn’t have had previously. Are they completely away from their work? Maybe not, but it still offers them choices.

    In the end, the issue of technology and devices comes back to perspective. The bigger point you’ve raised is the importance of being careful when making assumptions and arriving at conclusions.

    Aaron

    Like

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