Is Technology Causing us to Lose Sight of the Simple Things in Life?
As a society, we are constantly searching for the latest and greatest technological breakthrough to “simplify” our lives and make us more “efficient.” The question I would like to pose is simple. Does technology “simplify” our lives or actually cause us to lose sight of the “simple” things in life?
This question brings us back to the age-old debate of which generation was the best to grow up in. I remember these debates with my parents. Their argument always centered around how things were simpler when they grew up and how they enjoyed outdoor activities and family time more than my generation. I can almost hear them now, “When I was young we actually went outside and played with our friends unlike kids today who play video games all day!!” Well, are they right?
Over my time on this earth, I have realized that my parents are right more times than not; so, is this another case of my parents telling me, “I told you so!” To analyze this question, I would like to analyze a few of the most influential technological advances over the past century. The advances I want to analyze are: air travel, television, and the internet.
There is no doubt that air travel has “flattened” our world and expanded the opportunities available to us, but has it made our lives better? In support of air travel, we can now visit friends and relatives around the world who we would never have been able to see before. It has expanded our opportunities both personally and professionally. Increased air travel has led to improved cultural awareness now that the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall are only an airplane ride away. On the flip side, air travel makes it easier for parents to travel for business perhaps missing the joys of everyday family life. This could happen without air travel, but it definitely makes it easier.
The television is another great 21st century invention. It has brought information, entertainment, and groundbreaking events into our living rooms. In some cases families come together to watch their favorite television show or movie. In fact, shows like “Lost” and “24” have led to stimulating water cooler talk. But, is this better than coming together over a game of Monopoly? How has television changed our culture and the culture around the world?
The internet is the latest great advancement, and if air travel flattened the world, then the internet steam rolled the world. Information is immediately available around the world and e-mail has deemed snail-mail irrelevant. We have all the information we could ever need and can keep in touch with friends and relatives via e-mail and social networking sites. But, think about the last time you were at lunch with someone while they were texting away or playing online chess on their iPhone. If you’re like me, it happened today on a number of occasions. Conversations have taken a back seat to digital fantasy and entertainment. Just think about how many family fights originate from a husband who can’t stay away from his Blackberry, iPhone, or Android. Are social networks building human relationships or simply granting humans an escape from human contact?
I think the benefits of technology are undeniable, but the negatives are also very visible. In my view, technology can be a great benefit as long as it is tempered with the proper perspective. In today’s world, we have to be more intentional about spending time with family and friends. Our technology has made it extremely easy and acceptable to hide behind a computer or iPhone screen. If you cannot go to dinner without your cell phone, you might have a problem. Take a vacation from technology for a day or two. After the first few hours of convulsions, you will remember what it’s like to enjoy the simple things in life. So, my challenge to you is to turn off your phone for a few hours this weekend and spend some time with each other playing board games, eating dinner, hiking, or smelling the roses—you know……the “simple” things in life.