Let's pretend, for a brief moment, that things are different. Perhaps we live in an earlier time, or in a later one. In this sphere of difference, there are no cell phones, no personal computers much less personal computing devices, no e-readers, no Internet, no cables, modems, TVs, gaming consoles, lasers or anything else that I (and many, MANY other people) currently depend upon to provide me with a job.
In this imaginary and perhaps terrifying world, the question becomes, what would we do? In terms of communication, entertainment, jobs, recreation, productivity... What would the skill set be, instead of that which is currently possessed by millions upon millions of citizens of the worlds?
Well, for starters, y'all wouldn't be reading this, because I wouldn't be writing it, publishing it, putting it on the web for the world to peruse or mock or whatever it is that the Internet does to my ill-used blog.
One of the things that constantly amazes me is our dependence upon technologies. Not only do we assume that past technologies will continue to work (or at least that the foundations they created will), that current technologies will provide that which is needed, and most importantly, that new technologies and ideas will continue to spew forth, making our lives "better," and full of more "conveniences." But is it?
Hundreds, probably thousands even, of articles have been written in the past 20 years about how technology is changing humanity for the worse; that we're losing touch with each other, the world, the earth, life - you name it, we've lost it and DOOM WILL COME OF IT! And another several hundred, maybe thousand, articles have been written on how technology will save the same nouns previously listed. YAY TECHNOLOGY; IT WILL SAVE US ALL! So which is it? Are we slowly dying from the carginogens in our Macbook Pros, or are we creating and pushing the experiences of the human existence with collaborative software and new media mashups?
But rhetoric aside, let's go back to the idea of our world sans the thing we love: how would we manage? Could we manage? Can we even accurately fathom the idea of such a prehistoric world? Well, I can. And do. And sometimes wish it was so.
"Noooooooooo!!" cry out millions of Tiny Voices. "Erin, how can you say such a thing?! You work for ITS!"
Actually, I say and type it with relative ease (and not without a nod to irony). Because the question isn't really can we exist without technology; the answer is clearly yes. Our forefathers and foremothers did. As I'm fond of pointing out to my cell-phone obsessed siblings, modern homo sapien didn't have phones for several thousand years. Yet we managed to survive, create, communicate, travel and raise a lot of pretty awesome buildings without a single phone call or text. No, the question really is, "Should we exist with such a dependency upon technology?" And I think the answer is no.
Should we use technology to make things faster? Sure. I can type so much faster than I can hand write things out, and my handwriting kind of dies after awhile, so type is easier to read in the long run. I like being able to go lots of places with access to the Internet in my pocket, as well as the handy GPS function the iPhone provides. I love the Kindle, and managing 100+ students is beyond easier with our web apps and email. I'm not sure that we could manage that many students without it.
But should we be dependent upon it, to the point that we don't know what to do without it? Oh hell no. But I see that happening, a lot, perhaps more so than others because of the very fact that I work in technology.
So what do we do to combat the driving need to be attached to email, cell phones, texts, updates on Facebook and Twitter and RSS feeds? Well, we start with simple things, like self control. Parents, your children will not die if you do not give them a cell phone at age 8. I promise. I didn't have one until I was 20. I'm sure the Tiny Voices are gasping that such a thing is true, but it is, and HEY LOOK I'm still alive! To put it into perspective, there are still people out there who are living on subsistence farming methods on every continent. They do not own cell phones, and they probably never will. They do not have email, they do not compulsively check Facebook to see if John and Susan are still dating, they do not give a single iota for Michael Jackson's death, life or music. And they are, amazingly, happy.
Self-control, first then. And then simple curiosity, paired with a banishing of shoe-gazing abilities that my generation is so prone to possessing. I have this crazy idea for mandatory service corp post-high school, but that's for another day entirely. But we must encourage and seek out new ideas and experiences that are not related to the computer. Wait, what is that, Tiny Voices? You ask what you would do without it?
Anything you want, my dears. Unshackle yourself from the Internet and the data networks and the cell phone towers for a day. Try it. I dare you. You might be surprised.