As a joke when visiting Provincetown a while back I stopped at a coffee shop called the Wired Puppy. I was immediately convinced to enter since I am a huge coffee drinker, am often accused of being very energetic, am often found guilty of looking at my smartphone too much and love to walk my "puppy". Thus after entering the shop I texted my family to meet me there and then bought both a cup of coffee and a tshirt with said name.
A typical day for me goes like this:
6:40 a.m. Wake up.
6:45 a.m. Greet my dog and check my cellphone for any messages, look at MLSPIN for any new listings.
6:50 a.m. Take dog outside for fresh air and to grab the newspaper.
7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Between each leg of driving, meetings, gap of being away from my phone....do a quick check of text messages, emails, MLS updates, Skypes, etc.
11:00 p.m. Final look at online devices
11:05 p.m. Watch news and read kindle until I fall asleep.
So this morning, a few hours later that the weekday 6:40 a.m. start time... right after I checked my text messages on my cell phone and logged onto my gmail account for any important emails (all within the first few minutes of waking up) I took my dog outside to pick up the Sunday paper. As I started to skim the front page of the Boston Globe I came across an article which piqued my interest.
I had to self-reflect and ask "how many days do we start and end the day by checking some type of screen?"
Just yesterday my family went on an outing downtown and each person at some point was engaged in either texting or checking some "important" message as we walked around Newbury Street. And I forgot of course I checked my GPS for directions to our destination.
At dinner the conversation would side track to a quick glance at the phone. Even as we later started to watch a family movie at home, it took many minutes to get everyone away from their desk or laptop or screen of DVR recordings to agree on what to watch. I was even off to look at my kindle. Oops before going down to watch the TV, I had to check my Skype account on my computer to see if my daughter was online (she is studying abroad still in Barcelona).
Bottom line is that there are too many places to be connected.
My daughter took her ACT exam yesterday and one of the essay questions coincidentally was "is technology good or bad?"
Although we all embrace it and love the ability to stay "more connected" are we really "more connected". How many times do I email someone now instead of just picking up the phone. Be honest, how many times do you call someone when you know you will get their voicemail and then won't actually have to engage in conversation?
I tell my kids that when I was in college it was before any of this technology. We didn't even have cellphones or answering machines. If one wanted to talk to someone or make plans this had to be done either face to face or on a landline. We had to actually plan when we would be home to answer the telephone or to be sure someone would take and write down a message. Nowadays we can connect with someone whenever we want and where ever we are. There is no escaping our contact list.
Is technology a good thing? While my daughter is traveling abroad I am checking to see if she is online with Skype or Facebook. If I don't see her connected should I worry about if she's OK? When students traveled before any of this technology, one would write letters or maybe call to check in with the family once a week or so. Now if I go away on vacation and don't email my parents or call them at least once (they are in Florida) they feel slighted. Because the technology is available the expected norm is to keep in touch 24/7.
Do we know how to actively engage in face to face conversation? Sometimes the conversation actually turns to "who are you texting?". Maybe technology is not good for us and is taking us away from learning common social skills. Maybe we don't know how to have down time anymore. How would you answer this question if you had to write an essay?