The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Living with an IT professional subjects me to much more electronic “magic” than I would ever have in my world otherwise. We have lights on an app that I can turn up-down-on-off by a simple voice command. We have a Ring doorbell, also connected to an app, that detects people and motion via a video feed. We have Alexa in our living room, complete with alarms and reminders, and most recently, the ability to resume whatever TV show we are currently binge watching (nine seasons of Suits at the moment). Alexa tells stories, jokes, gives weather reports and instantly settles any disagreements for which there is an actual correct answer. She’ll also play music by artists I remember from my days of albums and cd’s and make recommendations based on what seems to keep me tuned in. (Creepy how she knows that).

But it’s not just at home. I can text while I drive using only my voice. I can make calls and listen to books while I drive too. With the touch of a button my car will maintain a safe distance between me and the car ahead of me. Another button keeps me centered in the lane I’m in and if I drift, will automatically correct me back to center. I have heated seats and a back-up camera and lights on my side mirrors to detect if someone is in my blind spot. I was gifted a health/activity/fitness tracker and it logs everything about my activity, day and night. Which begs the daily questions: Have I walked enough? Slept enough? Is the quality of those things meeting some standard?

But for all this convenience what am I actually getting in return? Is the trade-off worth it? Am I safer? Healthier?  Happier?

I started really thinking about this on my walk the other morning and then on a long drive. I’ll admit I love some technology. Honestly, without GPS I’d probably never go anywhere unfamiliar.and most everywhere I do go, I bring my camera (or two or three) along. I use photography as a creative outlet, but with digital technology I wind up deleting thousands more photos than I keep. The question then becomes: what am I missing around me when my eye has become one with the viewfinder?

In another nod to convenience I listen to a lot of books. On my long drive the other day I listened (for the third and fourth times) to Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. I love this book so much. It nudges me back to a place of perspective. It reminds me that if emptiness is what I seek, then all convenience achieves is to further deepen the illusion of time. Time wasted, spent, killed, tracked, saved, accounted for. 

Now, is the only time. 

“Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now”.  – Pema Chödrön

The bigger question I grapple with is this: if what we give our attention to thrives, am I letting convenience play too big a role? 

I’m leaning into practice and pulling away from mindless doomscrolling. Every time I log into Facebook these days it’s like a poke in the eye. When I’m tempted to “check in” there, I’ll grab pen and paper instead. I’ll do a drawing or doodle. Maybe I’ll write a paragraph, a page or a letter. Distraction is a learned behavior after all. In this time of letting go and making room all I really need to do is relax into what is and do what is in front of me to do. 

Thank god for laundry and dog walks, dust and dishes. 

If you’re reading this I would love to hear your thoughts on technology. Are you better because of it? How might your life be different without it?

I’m aware of it’s overwhelming presence in my life. I don’t think it makes me better or smarter, safer or happier. I accept that presence, but in the only moment that matters, I am free of expectation of it. 

Be here now. 

In this very moment.

And this one.

And this one.

And this one …

25 Comments on “Technology

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  2. Ah… I employ so many beloved analog tools, so many more than I did 30 years ago, when so much of our current techno was new… I prefer pen to keyboard, but keyboard is more expedient (but rarely more inspiring.) I prefer a manual well oiled typewriter to a keyboard, but alas, there is no delete key! I dont have RING… most of the time all my borders/boundaries are unlocked, whether I am here or not (alas, that will not always be prudent, if indeed it is even now). Bucky is my alarm system. 🙂 I do love the convenience of social media, when it stays social rather than political, which is less and less… I dont want to be a Luddite but I fear much is lost when all this AI-leading techno sweeps in, unchecked. We sacrifice privacy and safety for convenience and like you, I know not where or when to draw the line. I love new technology but I wonder if I will ultimately like where it deposits us, or maybe I won’t stick around long enough to find out. But we have set this rock in motion, and I do not believe we have the ability NOW to determine where it will lead us.

    • The Social Dilemma was a frightening look at what these new technologies are capable of. By design, they “learn us” then feed us what we most crave. It’s terrifying really. But I watched that months ago, and even after swearing off FB for a few days, jumped right back in. I love the ways it can connect people, but it can have the opposite effect too. It’s a big social experiment and we buy into it with every click. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it. It’s more than terrifying. It’s dangerous. I can’t quit cold turkey, but I can step away. Every moment a chance to begin again …

  3. I really can’t blame the existence of technology or social media for all I hate about it. It’s on me. Alexa has been unplugged for months. I have never learned to use her, or had a need to use her other than to ask for the number of tablespoons in a cup. (Something I should know, of course.) She could probably be helpful in many ways, but whatever. Just another aggravation to figure out. And I don’t need her listening to me.

    I scroll too much on FB, usually without finding anything I’m glad I found. And I allow myself to be distracted by it. That’s on me. I think I will start leaving my phone in another room most of the day, so it’s not so easy to grab while I’m actually doing something else, but suddenly I have to see what the latest is on the House debacle or what the weather will be in the next hour or if there are new responses to my FB post or whatever. I have told myself that many times. Of course, there’s still computer access since the projects I want to be doing requires its use. And the disk is “nearly full,” which drives me batshit crazy.

    I just spent the past hour reading blog posts that came in the past couple days, knowing there’s an expectation of a response. I know that because I have a blog and, though I don’t pressure readers for a response, I do love them. But I really was going to sit down and read a book until dinner.

    I love the conveniences and safety features in my car. Except for the one that tells me I’m on an unpaved road. I f***ing know that. I’ve been on it for half a mile, and I don’t drive with my eyes closed. And sometimes it’s not even true. Even the dealer doesn’t know how to turn it off.

    I love Google. And maybe someday schools will stop teaching fact memorization (or maybe they have, I don’t know) cuz Google stores more facts that any human brain can even know about, and concentrate on something else that can’t be learned via technology, like thinking how to think for oneself using said facts (real ones).

    I’m done now. And reading my book. Which is not on a screen.

    • Yes, yes and yes. Sounds like you’re making a good case for personal responsibility. I suppose the easy way out is to always look for something to hold the blame. Like you say, how we use the technology is much more responsible for our anxiety than the technology itself. When you wrote: “I scroll too much on FB, usually without finding anything I’m glad I found”. Touché. That’s exactly it. I’m looking for something to distract me from my loneliness or boredom and I never find it there. 

      I’m reading (listening) to a lot of Pema Chödrön. Your words along with hers made me aware that whatever frustration I have with social media or technology might really be nothing more than my own unwillingness to just BE with my own discomfort or restlessness. Each moment allows me the opportunity to start over. Nothing lasts. Not the good, the bad OR the ugly. 

      I agree about “fact memorization”. It replaces critical thinking and turns everything black or white. Life is complicated and messy and blurry. Not every soil can bear all things. I’m going to step outside before bed and look for the full Wolf Moon. And then I’m going to read a chapter or two before drifting off. Every moment is another chance to start again.

  4. I love tech when it works, and it makes me cranky as hell when it doesn’t. I have fewer “conveniences” than you, but the ones I have I use joyfully. I think social media needs to be separated from tech. That’s a different bird altogether, just that our tech makes it easily accessible. Occasional cleanses helps immensely, as often as needed. Every Saturday, or one weekend per month, or whatever makes sense for you. I always come away from a break eager to reconnect with the world. You get a nice break on your hikes. But some of things you use/abuse are addictive behaviors, and there are steps for that, as you know, if you really are wanting change. The question for me is, can I stop doing the auto-behaviors, like clicking when I’m bored, or picking up my phone in any free moment? Or do I need to go cold turkey? No answers, just more questions.

    • That first line is so true. It’s at the root of the love/hate reality. I’m not sure I can really separate social media from technology. Social media doesn’t exist without the delivery systems. I think you’re right about the addictive nature of it and that we do indeed have tools that can help. I have been listening to Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart continuously and have let her message get into my very soul. If chaos is radioactive, meditation is the stabilizer. I’m not looking to alter my feelings or neutralize my behaviors. I simply want to relax into it all. The good, the bad and the ugly.

  5. After reading about the various apps you use and those commenting use, I am not close to using technology to that extent. What technology I do use is more than balanced by living in Mexico. They say Mexico is 20 years behind the U.S. and Merida is 40 years, and there is much truth in that. So, to answer your question, my life is not all that different, because I have never really been that interested in using much of this new technology. The huge plus for me is the information available instantly which I find miraculous.

    • Thanks for writing, Don. I certainly like having information available instantly too, but I often question the source. The truth is, if I’m seeking some kind of perspective that affirms what I believe, I will always find something to support it. I wonder if that isn’t the bigger problem. I think I’d like it there in Merida. A smaller circle with less distraction.

  6. I’m definitely juxtapositional regarding technology.
    How it can make days in life more streamlined yet cheat one of eye to eye personal in the moment communication.
    I’m now cautious using the voice/text when driving as I think it’s distracting.. yet has allowed an immediate (but definitely not always mindful or sensitive!!)response, tho at times an immediate response can be necessary.
    Often my time is wasted checking various media (ye gads-wasted time)
    I use with joy (we drive the same brand vehicle) the lane /vehicle beside me alerts (whatever THAT’S called)
    my outings are less “wild” than yours but as an older gal I do not want to be out in the middle of sudden onset of unexpected weather (we’ve had in the last few years un-forcast tornado and derecho* >?spelling) so I subscribe to an instant text warning where my phone, if I have cell service, knows exactly where I am and gives me at least 15 minutes of warning (over and over, including sound) GOBSMACKED with that!
    what bothers me is that messages or ads show up on my phone right AFTER I have discussed something specific
    it truly feels all too “watchful”.

    • Thanks for writing, Martha. Good to hear from you. I always feel torn between safety and oversight, convenience and laziness. I love the ways technology can make me safer but I don’t always see the upside from being spared movement. I can use an app to shut off lights or get off the couch and put each room to bed. Like you I don’t like my conversations being used to sell me something. I wonder if all this technology takes away critical thinking and if, in the bigger picture, there is anything good about it.

  7. I recognize so much tech in my life from your post. All of the tech things are available in my car and I stubbornly refused to use some of them (pushing the button when I’m on the highway so the car almost drives itself) until a tech person told me that human error accounts for most accidents – and the tech can keep us safe. Do I want to be safe? I started using the tech in my car. The challenges of tech are ever around me in the form of my children. They don’t ask the same questions I do – like, could I benefit from just not knowing the answer to something we’re discussing? They turn to Siri without hesitation. And I feel sad at the abrupt end of a conversation. Don’t get me wrong – I 100% turn to Google when I need to know something for sure. I’m grateful for the role tech can play in my life – and I still resist (consciously choose?) turning to it when that act can benefit me in some way to slow down or pause. Thank you, Bonnie!

    • Thanks so much for writing, Navreet*
      You make a really good point about how different generations rely on technology. Younger people tend towards technology because in many respects they have no frame of reference for a life without it. I try to encourage the younger people in my world to get outside more and discover a world free of right/wrong, left/right. I’m all for things that help me feel safer, but I’m hesitant to abdicate personal responsibility to something as soulless as technology. Thanks for the food for thought.

    • It is interesting what you say, Navreet, about not turning to tech to answer something during a conversation. On the contrary I encourage my kids to ask Alexa as a way to keep the conversation going because if I do not know what they are asking I cannot engage and with them finding the answer out we all benefit and we can keep the conversation going. I do wish I could tell them look it up in a dictionary or encyclopedia for sure but with those absent I would rather we all find “immediate” answers than not.
      That said, I do not use the tech in my car :-)! Except for Google maps because I could not be trusted to find my way without it – or even with it, sometimes!

      • Ah yes, exactly what I suspect about the live/hate relationship we all have to technology. Those are certainly good moments you have with the kids when you all learn together. I’ll use Alexa to educate me once in awhile, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you realize that the trade-off for convenience is privacy. I imagine we would all be surprised by what the contents of a file on us looks like …

  8. I love all the technology I get to use in my daily life (many of the same items you mentioned!) but I do take breaks occasionally to help reset my brain. In particular staying off social media forcefully by deleting apps from my phone when I feel my mental health teetering. There’s also nothing better than having a day of baking and cooking to prepare for a small gathering of friends to get away from screens and back to face to face connections. And then of course getting in a good hike where there’s probably cell service (hey it’s great for safety!) but I put my phone on silent. I do love technology for helping me find quality stories and content like yours that makes me feel like I’m on the same wavelength with others out there❤️

    • Thanks so much for responding 🧡
      I like your idea of deleting apps from the phone. If I’m telling the truth, every year I ponder ways to keep connections while ditching Facebook. I usually put my phone in airplane mode when I hike or walk. It gives me a small measure of control in that I don’t ever even get the notifications that I want to ignore. I love the ways technology connects us too. I am beginning to look for ways to find the joy in things and remember that those joyful things will thrive with my attention.

  9. I do love being able to set my thermostat from my phone! I think life is easier with technology, but it comes with a price. Maintenance and upgrades, fixing when broke, reliance on internet and electricity, being aware and responsive to fraud and security vulnerabilities. So one has to balance the pros and cons. Video technology has brought many crimes, good deeds, and cat and dog antics to our eyes that we would never see. I love that! Thanks for your words and question Bonnie!

    • Thanks for writing, Joyce. It really IS an interesting trade-off and the most interesting thing to me is how that answer will be different in most people. I think you’re right about it being a question of balance. Someone famous once said “some things are meant to be measured and some things are meant to be weighed”. While it conjures pictures in my mind of tape measures and scales, I suspect the true balance comes from where we find our joy.

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