Yesterday I had a few friends over for book club. As we chatted over Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns the topic of technology was introduced. In the novel the spirited grandfather named Rucker resists technology coming to his life and the town of Cold Sassy. He does so because he knows it will change everything (which it in fact does- even changing the name of the town). He also resists it because it takes away some of his power, prestige and control. Here’s a man who is wise and weary being trained in technology by his young grandson. Eventually Rucker gives in and embraces technology to impress his new, spirited bride.
In a certain way I can relate to this dilemma. There is no doubt my life is better because of technology. Even just a few years ago I could not have managed both my jobs from my home office like I do today. I LOVE my job and am so grateful I can- receive calls about the properties at anytime, do team view chats with colleagues, have conference calls over the internet, email documents quickly etc. The internet also makes it easy to advertise our rental properties. About 80% of our referrals come from a website called www.vrbo.com– a site which charges only $250 a year for an ad (small potatoes when it comes to advertising budgets!). I don’t even know how we would get the word out about vacation rentals before the internet. I guess through the newspaper?
I also completed my education mainly via the internet. I received my MBA from University of Phoenix using their FlexNet program which is 1/3rd ground, 2/3rd internet. This convenience allowed me to squeeze my education into any gap of time. I could turn in papers, or watch lectures at 3am. I received my degree while working thus eliminating some of the debt incurred using traditional methods of education. Working while going to school also allowed me to apply the concepts from class in a “real world” setting. This was often more valuable than anything taught by a professor or included in a textbook.
I love technology because of the ability it gives me to communicate with loved ones at low cost. My sister is in England and I miss her greatly. However, thanks to Skype I talk to her through a video-chat for free as long as I want! This would have been $100’s just a decade ago. Through blogs and facebook I can also see photos, read updates and keep at least a passing acquaintance with friends that are far away. In my fantasy everyone would be living close to me, and I could drop in unannounced for visits, chatting merrily together…..But in the meantime I enjoy the little online tidbits I get from gone but not forgotten friends. With my recent fitness goals I have also used the internet to help keep track of my training, share my journey and receive support from everyone- even total strangers!
There are so many other ways technology benefits my life. I could go on about my favorite gadgets (DVR and IPOD being at the top) but I won’t bore you.
Despite all these advantages sometimes I hate technology. I feel like it has made people cold, non-familial and rude. Gone are the days when you were expected to visit and talk with people you didn’t like. In previous societies people needed each other more for survival. One of my favorite things about old books like Jane Austen’s novels is that the characters always had something nice to say. Even if she hates the woman she is talking with, the Austen hero would be forced to ask “How is your mother’s health?” or “Is your family well?” etc. Now even with people we like, we screen calls, fail to respond to texts, and ignore emails. I think I would die of shock if someone actually RSVP’d to one of my parties. Most of the time it is a text a half hour after saying they can’t come- if that. I have friends and colleagues that have become almost impossible to reach over the phone. It is all texting all the time. I am sorry but sometimes I actually want to talk to a human being!
Part of the problem is our lives have become more complicated. I recently got a new computer and have been amazed at the difficult process of installing, loading programs and getting it ready. My laptop is only 2 years old but it seems archaic compared to the new desktop. I’m no expert, but I don’t think things changed as quickly in Austen’s time. Life was simple consisting of work, family, marriage, daily sustenance and socializing. Technology can feel a like an insatiable appetite ever looking for the next great life-saving meal (or in this case gadget).
I check my emails many times a day and am constantly updating facebook, twitter, my blog etc. I am also always working and even though I love my job it can be a bit invasive. They say that responding to an inquiry within 2 hours gives you an 80% higher chance of booking the reservation. Knowing this, it makes it hard to turn my phone off or not check my email because I feel guilty about the leads I’m missing. My greatest blessing of flexible work can at times become a curse. Sometimes I just turn it all off anyway and enjoy life, but I don’t do it half as much as I should.
I won’t even get started on the woes of dating and technology. Too many men my age are addicted to World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Command and Conquer. I have been in conversation with boys (inviting them to a party or something) when they actually will forget I am in the room they are so entrenched with their game. The real world is staring at them in the face, talking with them, and they would prefer the virtual world. It makes me crazy! That’s just one example of technology messing up dating. It’s too easy to be a hermit, or even just lazy. People used to feel more of a drive to find the “third place” in their lives- a place where they could interact with the community, make friends and maybe find love. Now the “third place” is the internet, which is lame if you ask me.
It’s always interesting to see around Christmas time my friends and I usually go on more dates. This is because many guys are encouraged to bring dates to company parties. When given a reason they date, but if left to their own devices it becomes more rare. In previous generations there were more reasons to date- to find a companion. If only for survival, a spouse was essential. I don’t know if that makes sense! Let’s just say it takes a lot to get a guy to ask a girl out now-days.
Anyway, I will continue my love-hate relationship with technology because its not going anywhere! How do you’all feel about it?
I think this clip expresses my feelings well: