Many of us start the New Year hopeful for a better year than last and ways to make our own lives better as well as others.
I start this New Year being grateful that I still have the capacity to write for the Indy and that they will continue to print some of my stories this coming year.
I have been off the grid for six months due to my mother’s death in June. Amid the grief of losing my last parent and all that goes with that, every minute has been consumed with banks, lawyers, and executing a trust. There are stories to share later and things you need to know as the passing of your loved ones happen in the coming years.
It is a privilege to be back at the computer to comment on local issues, societal trends, and outrageous things occurring in our world. This week’s story, however, will focus on human behavior and technology.
I have a growing concern as I move around our city, doctor’s offices, restaurants, and traveling that our dependence on our smart phones is not making our lives better but truly hampering our communication skills, our joy of human interaction, and our personal well being.
In November I was in Maui for the Thanksgiving holiday and went out to dinner on several occasions. Knowing how little time parents and children have to really be together, I was disturbed to see entire families each with their own phone staring down at the screens instead of talking and laughing during most of the dinner hour. These families did not look happy or glad to be together, their phones are their new companions for which they can hardly put down for a minute.
How is it that something that is lifeless, non expressive, and responsive to us in a real and tangible way has become more important than a smile, a hug, a laugh, and good conversation. Do we really have to wonder why so many kids are depressed and lack a zest for life? We as a society are starting to depend on our “social media tools” to be our primary link to society.
I do applaud one young family with grandparents, young children and a teenager at dinner whose mom took a stand at dinner and said politely to her teen son that he would be giving up his phone to her until dinner was over. One table near us on Thanksgiving without one phone in hand.
In the doctor’s office recently I saw a child under the age of two mesmerized with the small screen attached to his stroller. Now there are adapters on the carriages and strollers to entertain children instead of having them observe and respond to their new environments when they are out in the world.
The same situation occurred on a beautiful walking path in Wailea, Maui. Parents take their children for a walk, some in strollers with screens attached to entertain them. What happened to observing the beauty, birds, landscape, and smells of a new environment? How will we learn to be human, kind, and well rounded without observing, thinking, and evaluating new experiences?
Runners with ear buds not listening to ocean and wildlife nearby plugged into music and some doing business on their phones. I used to laugh at the thought of robots being better companions than people, and now I am scared that we are indeed moving toward technology becoming more important than humans. It is easier to break up with a person through texts and emails, to say no to an invitation, to not respond at all if you so desire through these tools than face a sad, angry, or disappointed face.
Social media is becoming mean media in many ways. Think of the number of people having to retract a tweet, text, or e-mail that people read and respond negatively too. It can ruin a career or business when information gets out that is only partially true or is unfavorable to a large body of people. Where is our freedom going now?
I would like for all of you this coming year to review, assess, and consider how technology is enhancing your relationships, business, and home life and keep what is good, rewarding, and useful, and dump or cut back on what is hampering your relationships, conversations, use of time, and well being.
We all are aware of its usefulness in our lives but what about the time technology takes away from family, exercise, and quality of our relationships and a host of other things.
We should be in charge of our lives, not endless tools that are costly, have monthly fees, and often have no other purpose in our lives other than being the latest tool to show off.
Happy New Year!
That’s My Take,
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire