Thursday, March 17, 2011

Electronics-Addiction or Reliance?

Yesterday while reading one of my regular forums, I came across a thread that made me think about a few things. This particular thread was about an online service that allows you to watch movies and television shows at anytime. Originally, this company was nothing more than an online dvd rental, but now offers streaming movies and tv through your computer or gaming system, along with wi-fi capability. While the responses within the thread were different from each person, they were all basically the same in their core. Every one of them used this service, and most of them had it set up for use in multiple rooms so they could watch something or get online virtually anywhere in their homes.

I hear of and see people with cell phones that are capable of nearly everything a personal computer can do. You can use this phone to check your e-mail, get online, take and send pictures, text message, read a book, and now virtually any application that you can think of is available. For the majority of people, their phone never leaves their side. Some simply cannot imagine functioning without it

I'm old enough to remember when my parents got their first color television. I remember when the first commercially sold calculator and digital watch came out. I remember the first people I knew with their own computer had both a Commodore Vic-20 and a Commodore 64. I remember the first person I personally knew with a cell phone had a Motorola bag phone in his work truck, and I remember when my neighbor was the first person I knew to own a video game system when he got an Atari for Christmas. With the exception, of course, of the first television; I have been able to watch home electronics first come onto the scene and advance into what they now are in my 45 years on this Earth. I even remember going from an old rotary phone to a push button. And wow, that first cordless phone was just the coolest thing ever made. We though we were just a few years away from flying cars. Really?? A phone that doesn't have a cord?? WOW, this is like the Jetsons! Where is my robot maid and flying car???

. This is the hard part to think and write about. Have you ever gotten to the point in your life when you realize you sound like your parents? "I remember when I was your age...." "...uphill both ways in the snow"...... Well, I'm kind of there with this post. It's a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but I can accept it. Excuse me while I go look for another 50 gray hairs on my head....

I can't deny that electronics have advanced and in many ways helped or made our lives easier, but I can't help but wonder what they have done to us as a society. We've become so reliant on these items that we can't imagine living without them, and some have become so addicted to them that these devices nearly rule their lives. It's strange to me to see and read of people doing so many things with some electronic device, that either they could easily do otherwise, or so relying on that device for their day to day lives that they cannot do anything without it.

As I said earlier, I remember when a neighbor got an Atari game system for Christmas. It was actually pretty cool at the time. We would spend countless winter hours playing Frogger, PacMan, or drag racing. It killed time on those winter days, or those rainy summer days when there wasn't much to do outside. But, when the weather changed, that system sat on the shelf collecting dust. We had things to do-riding our bikes, chores (anyone remember those?), helping our parents, hunting, fishing, etc. Now I see people that spend entire evenings, or even days, playing games on the newer advanced systems. I personally know several who sometimes brag about spending their entire day off lounging on the couch playing the latest war-type game.

I've watched the home computers grow over the past 30 years. In high school, we used Radio Shack TRS80 computers, and now there are phones that are capable of far more than they were. I remember using my friends Commodore 64 over a phone line and thinking how awesome it was to be able to access someone else's computer. Now I can send e-mail, access any information, talk to friends instantly, and, of course, write in this blog. Actually, for those that don't know, I even met Lisa online almost 13 years ago.

I remember seeing people on tv with cell phones years ago. Normally they were the car phones, but handhelds weren't far behind them. The first person I knew to have any kind of cell phone was my supervisor/foreman when I first entered the pipe trade almost 16 years ago.He had a bag phone the size of a duffel bag in his truck, and it got horrible reception. Now I look around me and know only one person who doesn't have one. I'm constantly surrounded by people whose phone never, ever, leaves their side; and is constantly going off whether it's a call or text message. They're everywhere, and you can barely go anywhere where you won't see someone with their phone glued to their ear or typing away at a text message.

We did, at one time, have a game system. I had bought it the same winter when I met Lisa. I was working out of town and staying in a hotel 5-6 nights a week in the dead of northeast Ohio winter. I bought a used system and a few games just to pass the time in a hotel room. I still had the game system when we bought this place almost 11 years ago. I didn't think at the time I played it often, but I soon learned differently. I was sitting in front of the tv, playing a racing game, when I got up to get some coffee. As I walked to the kitchen, I realized that it was a beautiful day outside, and I had just spent 2-3 hours wasting away at a game. I unplugged the game and traded it off a few days later. I had the exact same thing happen 2 years ago when I realized that I had wasted 4 hours of a wonderful summer day watching a Mythbusters marathon. Two days later, we had the cable company come get the box, and we've never looked back. Since that day, I have read more books than I probably did in the previous ten years. I've stopped wasting my time and have educated myself in many ways. We spend time reading, talking to each other, and even sitting at the table playing board games. Life itself has improved in many ways since tossing the cable out of the window.

I've been writing this post a little at a time over the course of several days. I try not to cop an attitude when I write something like this based solely on my own opinion, but sometimes I do. It's those times when I delete the part I didn't like, and let it sit for a while. This morning I sat to read one of my regular forums with my first cup of coffee. Their forum is broken down into categories like most others, and I see a new post in the "videos" section. Sometimes the videos posted are educational, sometimes they're just entertaining, and sometimes they're of the poster's things done at their own home. I click on one that's titled in a way that makes me think it's from his home. When it opens, I'm disappointed to see that it's yet another video promotion for another video game. I see grown men talking about how they can't wait for the release of this game. Grown men. Not kids, not teens, not even 20-somethings, grown men. Maybe I'm just too disconnected now from games and television, but I just can't understand someone my age getting excited over a video game. It boggles my mind.

I'm sure that everyone is wondering where I am going with all of this, and here it is. I have to wonder if advances in home electronics have not only helped us grow as a society, but somehow choked us as people and are holding us back from being human. I see so many people around me and in the world that can't possibly survive their day to day life without electronics. They can't imagine a day without a cell phone, television, or game system. What started as simple communication and entertainment devices have turned into things that, for lack of better terms, rule our lives.I know people who can't even go to the bathroom without their cell phone. I know people that spend every waking moment away from work playing video games. I know people who sit and either read online or play games just the same. We are addicted, and we are reliant on each and every one of them in some form, whether we will admit it or not.

I'm aware that we live a lot differently than most of society. We aren't "the norm". I get that. But sometimes I have to look around and see how people live so differently that I'm not making myself an outcast from the norm, the norm is making me an outcast from it. I can't say we don't own any electronics. We do both have cell phones, and obviously we own a computer, but that's as far as we go. We don't have cable or satellite tv. We have an old, regular, boxy tv that we use to watch the occasional dvd. We don't own any type of game system, portable book reading device, or the latest phone capable of more than this old computer running WIndows 98. We've made our decisions based on our choices of how to live, and quite frankly, we never plan to go back.

I'm not saying everyone should make the choices we have. I'm not going to suggest to everyone that they toss the tv out of the window and concentrate on nothing but growing and raising their own food. I'm just asking that people take a step back and see what these things are doing to us. Everyone laughs at those old pictures from the 50's with the entire family huddled around the tiny black and white television. At the very least, they were together. Now look around and see that everyone in the family has their own tv, phone, computer, and game system in their own rooms. The dad is playing a war game, the mom is watching a chick-flick, the son is playin a guitar-playing game, and the little sister is on a social networking site talking about her teachers mole.

Take a day sometime and turn off all the electronics. Unplug for a while. Leave the tv and computer off. Leave your cell phone alone except for calls. Go outside and get some fresh air. Go to the library or book store and get a book. No, not from an online store or an e-book; I mean a good old fashioned paper book. Sit back and relax. Educate yourself. Go for a walk in the woods or the park. Sit under a tree and enjoy nature. Go home and plant something, then watch it grow. Think about that new electronics purchase. Do you really NEED it?


jimmycrackedcorn said...

You are absolutely right. Enough said.

Happy Days said...

Very enjoyable post Chris. If we look back in history we see:
1) cars over taking the horse
2) electricity over taking oillamps
3) Big radios over taken by transsistors.
4) tractor over taking the plow
5) roller skates over taken with mid line skates
6) home cooked foods being over taken by fast foods
7) open heart surgery over taking death.
8) phones over taken by cell phones which are over taken by 3G phones
9) Kick the can over taken by video games.
10) But love still remains the same!! Thank goodness for that!
I guess it's just a progression. Each era embarking on something new, but losing something in it's progress. I do leave my cell at home, but feel lost without it, in case of emergency. We have become dependant on them, that's for sure, but It's not all bad though.
It is a fact that the kids nowdays are heavier from lack of play. Diabetes is on an increase, so is heart disease...I guess the bad comes with the good....debbie

Ki Vick said...

I had a discussion with someone once where they were so adamant about the fact that they didn't have a cell phone because they didn't want people bothering them all day. I laughed and said that home phones were more invasive. She was shocked and asked how I could say that, I replied by turning my cell phone off and asked if it was as easy to disconnect all of her home phones.

Technology is great, but sometimes you have to remember that it's ok to turn it off. My husband now has a rule that when we sit down to dinner, especially if we're out at a restaurant, the cell phone gets turned off. It's just manners.

Donald said...

Great post! I'm 42 and remember when my folks got our first color tv, when we got cable when I was in HS and at first we just had the big dial on the box, but later splurged and got the giant remote with the cord going to the box.

The only video game I had was Colecovision that had pong, tennis and hocky - all were pretty much the same three large pixels bouncing one large pixel. My friend had an Atari.

But we played outside. Building forts in the woods behind the school. BB gun squirell hunts. riding our bikes through unfamiliar neighborhoods to see if we could get lost.

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