The purpose of technology is to make life better. With certain notable exceptions, man has been developing technology to make life safer and more enriching from the time of the wheel all the way to SpaceshipTwo. Regarding handheld devices however, particularly smartphones, the blessings of technology have brought a curse that deserves some thought.
How many times have you witnessed the following (notice my confident assumption that you have):
- The person in the lane next to you is holding the steering wheel in one hand, looking down at a cell phone in the other, and dangerously weaving all over the road at inconsistent speeds?
- Someone is holding a loud personal conversation on their phone while checking out at a store, rudely ignoring the clerk and oblivious to the fact that they’re holding up everyone else in the line?
- The shrill sound of the Macarena, Gangnam Style, or some other pop-fad ringtone going off during a meeting, presentation, or church service?
- While giving a presentation, your audience is checking their messages within the first 5 minutes of your talk?
Have we reached the point where technology allows us to think and focus so much on ourselves that we’ve actually forgotten about what’s really important? Are we allowing technology to overreach it’s purpose to make our lives better and actually make it worse? Put another way, will you be texting on your deathbed that your life is complete and you can die in peace because your inbox is at zero? It think the answer to the first two is “Yes” and the last, “Unlikely”.
As someone who grew up without cell phones, pagers and email, I can assure you that the important things in life work perfectly fine without them. Yet as a technologist, I certainly recognize the importance of connectedness in our fast-paced world – it puts food on my table – but life is more than keeping up with Facebook, Instagram, or yakking every passing thought on a cell phone. To one degree or another, we’ve all fallen victim to the insidious anti-purpose of technology: distraction.
- personal relationships
- physical well-being and safety
- common graces and courtesy
- rest and relaxation
- personal development
As we start the new year, it might be a great time for us to take stock of what things are most important in our lives and who’s in charge of them – us or our smartphones.