I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Unless you are a computer genius (I was nice and didn’t say “geek”, but I did think it!), you probably have a similar relationship with it.

The “hate” part of my relationship with technology is simply the fact that I have no idea how it works, thus no idea what to do when it isn’t working, or at least isn’t working correctly. I’ve had a number of laptops crap out on me, usually at around the 4-year mark, and the one thing I have learned from that is to routinely use a flash drive to back up any files I have on my desktop. I’m very alert to things from unknown sources who want me to click on some link, and these make it faster into my spam file than the time it takes me to inhale and exhale one breath. I’m really good at only going to websites that I know and trust; if I do see something for a website I’m not familiar with, I always do a search for the name rather than click on any provided link. Still, no matter how attentive and careful I am, I know that somewhere down the line, there is a pretty good chance I’m going to be buying another laptop. (I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve had this one more than 4 years and have had no issues – yet.)

The “love” part of my relationship with technology is far stronger than its hate counterpart. I mean, I wouldn’t trade the efficient way tasks can be done using technology. I won’t say I’m old, but I can remember when electric typewriters were introduced during my high-school years, and we were thrilled at how much faster we could put words on paper than with a manual one. Of course, there were still issues with how to correct a typecast error, starting with smudging the paper using a pencil eraser. I was pretty satisfied when we got to Wite-Out, although it could be messy, and totally wowed when we got the corrector tape unit that contained correction tape that you simply swiped over what you wanted to erase.

And when phones came out with buttons to push instead of dial to enter the phone number you wanted to call, that saved a lot of time, especially if you entered a wrong number and had to hang-up your call and start again. Answering machines were the bomb-dot-com because you didn’t have to answer the phone to find out what someone was calling you about! Speed-dialing meant we could program certain numbers we called often into our phones so we didn’t even have to dial each digit anymore. And heck, now you just vocally tell your phone who you want to call and it just happens!

We complain about the work ethic of the younger members of our work force, who want to do as little as possible and get paid as much as possible for it. I worked in a grocery store back in the days that the words “bar” and “code” were never used together. We rang in each item according to the price sticker on it via big buttons on a register. We had to know about the different departments (produce, meat, dairy, general grocery) and which items were and weren’t taxable so we could tally them accordingly. We hit a sub-total button and told the customer the amount. Groceries were paid for either by cash or by check. If it was cash, we used our brains to count out the amount of change that was due, not having a machine tell us. And we counted it back out to the customer rather then tell them the total change they were due.

And damnit, I learned geometry, algebra and calculus in high school via math done by hand. I’ve been out of high school 48 years, and I have NEVER used any of those maths, but I managed to eke through them without some form of electronics to do the math for me! I learned how to print and how to write because texting and computers didn’t exist. Students today can seemingly master anything they want to simply by knowing how to use technology to provide them the answers of how to get to the mastery level.

What I perceive to be the biggest problem with being so attached to electronic gadgets is that we no longer really trust ourselves to be able to find a solution to something on our own. In a sense, we consider the human race to be mediocre at intelligence without an electronic gadget nearby to either at least validate what we thought was right or to tell us what is right when we are wrong. Do we ever wonder how the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty managed to be built without having an electronic source figure out what to do next and inform us?

The Pros (and Woes) of Technology

I admit that I am, for the most part, self-taught by what I can do on a computer. I am old enough to vaguely remember manual typewriters, easily remember electric typewriters and even remember using a DOS prompt when computers first came out.

I also admit that I am limited in what I do with a computer. Emails, limited social media, online games, online banking/bill paying and, of course, blogging take up 99% of the time I spend on it. Having said that, I probably easily average 4 hours a day sitting in front of this screen.

I wrote an earlier entry about my anxiety of changing over to a new laptop and how it was so much easier than I ever could imagine. And I was proud…until the day I needed to print something and couldn’t get my printer connected properly. Of course, I contacted HP support online (only slightly better than having to do it by telephone!) and spent quite some time with Vincent, the agent. He logged into my computer and ran a whole bunch of programs while I watched – fascinated – on my screen. Eventually, he found that, in the short 3 weeks I had been using the new laptop, I’d ended up with multiple viruses! Seriously? I don’t download anything from anyone unless they are very trusted. I don’t even open spam mail, whether it shows an attachment or not. I could not fathom how I could have several unknown origin viruses in, again, just 3 weeks!

I learned that some viruses can come into your modem without needing you to do anything. This was not good news! (Of course, that explains why I go through laptops every 3 or so years!) All of those brand-name firewalls you purchase can’t fight these – the only way to do it is to block them right at the modem from ever getting through.

Long story short – I paid about the same amount for one of those firewall programs to have a program installed onto my laptop that protects the modem from the viruses. I chose the 5-year plan (imagine me having the same laptop for 5 years!) and it includes 24-hour phone access to this agent for any reason my computer decides to not function.

Is it working? I can only assume so, since I haven’t had any issues of any kind since it was installed. I told Vincent I would be calling him back within the year to run the same program he ran that showed the viruses. I want to see a screen before me that says “no viruses found”!

I am also going to admit that I am even slightly more inept when it comes to cell phones. Again, I’m old enough to remember rotary phones – desktop and wall-mount – with the long stretched out cords. I thought I was “big stuff” when I got the bag phone, technology’s first attempt at a cell phone. Now, I have a cell phone with all kinds of programs and stuff, and I use it for texts 99% of the time, and the other 1% is to get information I need to find right away when I’m not at my laptop. I use less than 2GB a month total.

So, is technology more pro than woe? In so many ways, it makes our lives so much easier. Information about anything can be found on the “world wide web” with just a few keystrokes. Checking in on and seeing what your family and friends are up to is easy with social media. Online shopping and its conveniences has many perks. Paying a bill is streamlined when you don’t have to write a check or pay for a postage stamp.

But I am concerned that society has become so tied to the internet (through whatever means – cell phone, computer, fancy wrist watch) that human interaction becomes unnecessary. Brick and mortar stores are continuing to close – or go bankrupt – as online shopping becomes the more preferred and convenient way to purchase things. Even the postal service continues to lose money because we don’t send mail in the quantities that we used to.

And we don’t talk to each other anymore! Communication is handled through a text, or if the message is more complicated, through an email. Not to mention that we are paying such close attention to our phones that we don’t even bother to acknowledge a person walking by us, much less offer them a smile or a simple “hello”. We are becoming a society so involved with the pros of technology that we don’t consider the woes of the loss of human contact!

And, at least to me, the biggest crime is that, when we are in moments of human interaction, we’re so keenly aware of what ever signal our device gives us to announce activity that we divert our attention, even if only for a moment, to see what it is. Nothing says, “Wait, this might be more important than you are” in quite the same way!

This society needs to find a balance if we are going to continue as humankind. I’m not against technology – it makes many things more convenient in my life – but, as I always tell people, “I do not live on my phone”. My phone is on a charger in my bedroom and honestly, I check the weather with more consistency than I do anything else. As for the computer, I can only say that I have no desire to actually learn how to do more on it than what I have taught myself to do. My balance comes from spending quality time with my beloved brother (conversation never stops), time with my bestie, Joanne, and her family, and my commitment with the same bestie for lunch once a month that’s just our time. Those things, plus the other fun things we find to do together, plus hanging out with people my brother knows whenever I visit him, make sure that I am keeping human interaction a priority in my life.

How are you at keeping a balance between human interaction and technology?