“But This Is Better” …


Gas PumpI stopped to get gas on my way to the doctor’s office this week …

The other day, I made an appointment for a routine medical procedure over the telephone.   On my way to the appointment, I stopped to get gas.

About fifteen minutes after making the appointment, an email arrived with a link to a website which confirmed the reason, time, and location of my appointment, along with detailed preparation guidelines and driving instructions. 

As I drove to the appointment, I stopped to get gas and allowed the gas pump to guide me through what to do when, gave me options from which to choose at various points, and accepted my plastic money, with a cheery but electronic “thanks”.

“Here, Let Me Google That …” 

... apparently the final argument-ending phrase of our times, although the tendency of some folks to ignore what is known to continue to believe what they want to believe does weaken it.  However, that is a topic for another time. 

When we want to know something, we look it up online.  We are now at a point where we are irritated or disappointed when we cannot find an answer to our question online, no matter how esoteric or exotic may be that question.

We live in a world increasingly focused around human to computer interactions, rather than human to human.  We now expect to receive electronic help.  When I go online to visit some website and a question arises or I want to know something, I check out the drop-down menus, click on helpful icons, and seek the Help symbol when all else fails.

BACK THEN:  “Directory Information.  How may I help you?” …

In the “Old Days”, if I needed directions or guidance or simply wanted to know someone, I asked another person.  They might be my friend, a teacher, a librarian, or some other person with a role to play and information to share. 

Many people had jobs where their main function was to give information to others.  A person who had access to information was important, powerful, and could control their environment if they so chose, simply by providing or restricting information.

Most of these jobs are now gone and we work now more with creating, processing, and storing information.  Actually sharing the information happens digitally.   We don’t have anyone to ask …

At one point, we depended on other people for help and information.  NOw, because we carry computers with us on our wrists, in our pockets, and on our dashboards, everywhere we go.  We no longer need to ask others ...

Non-human technology has developed to the point where we expect information easily and immediately available with a few clicks and a good Internet connection.  We do not need to ask another person about things which a machine or a computer can tell us.

That is all well and good … as some say, “It’s progress.”  However, many of us are now realizing that something is missing.

“It’s Not Like This …”

I was at a celebration and worship service recently for a good friend whose time on earth is ending.  We used social media to give updates to others near and far away about her journey.  At we gathered after the service to munch cookies, look at pictures and other mementos of her rich life, and share memories, something struck me.  

Several of the people in the room were folks that I once saw regularly and often,  because they were part of my physical world.  Now time and circumstance separate us and we do not cross paths very often. 

However, we were all drawn together on this day at this place for a common reason.  One of the people said as we embraced for a warm hug and pat on the back: “Facebook is nice, but this is better.”.

I could not have said it better myself …

REALITY: 

The technology is and will be part of our lives.  It has uses that are impactful, powerful, and positive.  Technology frees us from having to collect and keep up lots of information or conversely to live in ignorance or non-awareness.  As we continue to live into a society with technology integrated into every aspect, we will eventually stop marveling at what we can do and simply expect the technology to be there.  

This is change and we might as well embrace it …

BENEFIT:  

A less-noted aspect of technology is that it frees us from the trivial and routine to focus on what is truly important.  As I reconnected physically with people who matter to me at that gathering, I was not burdened by the need to collect information about them or to frantically “catch up” on every aspect of their lives.   I can always check out their online profile for all that.

I could just talk to old friends, about things important to both of us, about the person we were celebrating, about life …

CAVEAT: 

Let me be clear … I am not railing against the dehumanization of society through technology … I like this online world and its easy access to a larger universe than I otherwise would be aware of.  While I see the triviality of much of our modern society’s use of technology, I also see moments of deep humanity and true sharing … not of facts and information, but of feelings and common experiences.

The choice is ours alone on how we will live into this new world … as it always has and always will be.

WHAT HAS TECHNOLOGY FREED OR ALLOWED YOU TO DO OR BE?

Waiting patiently for what is yet to come in the Heartland ….

John

 

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