My cell phone is not smart, my television is not thin, and my car plays cassette tapes. It’s not that I can’t afford better technology, it’s just that I don’t want to own all the latest, greatest techno-gadgets. I’ve chosen to be a “late adopter” or a “casual user” of technology. It’s not that I don’t like electronic toys; in fact, I am prone to love gadgets too much. After all, I grew up in the 80’s when electronic gadgetry really took off, and I know that I can be easily seduced into the eternal vortex of buying new electronic gear. So to avoid electronic addictions, I try to steer clear of Best Buy and its seductive advertisements, and yet I love my MacBook and all that it allows me to experience: my blog, three email accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, and free access to countless fascinating articles online.
Personally, I vacillate with my use of new technology. For two years, I used an Apple iPod Touch as my personal digital assistant. It served as my calendar, address book, list maker, internet browser, and it contained dozens of apps to help me stay organized and informed. I carried it with me all day, every day, until I lost it in the woods on a hunting trip, ironically (I wonder what the squirrels and worms think of it). Ultimately, I decided to replace it with the old paper calendar / day-timer system because I realized that I had become addicted to that little handheld internet-connected device. I couldn’t NOT look at it for more than an hour, and typically I would quickly check something (email, Facebook, or the news) anytime I had a minute to kill. I didn’t want to struggle with digital addiction anymore, so I went low-tech to gain back some of my humanity.
As a teacher, I generally like what technology offers me and my students. I use my MacBook all day long, and I use a digital document camera and projector in nearly every lesson. I have my students use the computer lab fairly often for a variety of assignments. And yet, I worry a great deal about over-using technology and under-teaching with it. I’ve been guilty on occasions of spending far too much instructional time using technology that only appears to be educational. In other words, the students may be creating something with a computer, but they are not actually learning much at all. Technology in the classroom is often little more than arts and crafts. And yet, in select situations, I know that computers can be used in creative, thought-provoking, educational ways. So, I am conflicted. I experience the benefits and the drawbacks, and so I embrace it with one arm – a mere side-hug.
So, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when I read something online that gives me a greater understanding of something deeply human or divine. I hate it when it doesn’t work as well as five cents worth of pencil and paper. I love it when it helps me connect with someone I haven’t seen in years, and we encourage one another with a funny memory. I hate it when banner ads know more about my interests than my co-workers do. I love it when I lose an important document, and my computer has it, and I can easily send it via email. I hate it when I’m talking with someone, and they start reading their cell phone and tell me to hang on a second. I love it when I’m waiting in some waste-of-time line and I can whisper sweetness with my wife via text messaging. I hate it when I see a family at a nice restaurant and all the kids have their heads bowed and hands folded in worship of their handheld devices. I love it when I play Guitar Hero or watch an exciting movie with my thirteen-year-old son. I hate it when I see middle school boys after school snickering about something on a cell phone and pointing at some girl down the hall. I love it when my wife texts me with good news, especially when it’s about how much she loves me.
So, I’m conflicted. I want to be plugged in, and yet I don’t. It’s a modern paradox, and it’s one that we need to solve – for peace and for posterity. Our future depends on it.