When I was growing up we were warned about the dangers of watching too much TV. We affectionately called it the Boob Tube, because it was certainly turning our brains to mush, though believing that didn’t cause us to watch any less. We loved the Boob Tube! It was certainly bad for our bodies with all that sitting and laying around for hours. Especially since you had to watch your shows when they were on, because back then there was no such thing as recording a TV show. Even summer reruns were iffy, because they might not re-run that particular episode. If it was coming on Thursday night at 8 pm, you’d better be there Thursday night at 8 pm! Or miss it forever!
While I can’t guarantee that it didn’t have any ill effects on our physical bodies, it didn’t really seem to rot our brains like we were warned. Although it was probably a tremendous time waster, we seemed to survive unscathed and go on to live productive lives.
Eventually that screen moved into our work spaces, though at the time we didn’t really make the connection between the Boob Tube and our office computer. One was fun and the other was work. Not the same.
Office computers were a bit of a learning curve for most of us in those early days, but it wasn’t long before we were hooked. I loved my computer! After years of pasting up galleys of type and the chemicals in the darkroom doing a number on my skin and hands ... I could just sit at my computer and tap away. My skin cleared up. No more ruined clothes splashed with smelly chemicals. And it was the same in every industry. The computers were more efficient, more fun, more accurate ... more SITTING! Now we could sit all day, working at our computers, then go home and sit for a few more hours watching all those great shows!
Then the inevitable happened ... those computers followed us home! Still, we didn’t make the connection. With the exception of PacMan and solitaire, computers were in the home office/spare bedroom – and the Boob Tube was in the living room ... where we mindlessly entertained ourselves while ignoring the family. When the show was over, we could scoot down the hall to balance the checkbook and finish up the proposal for work in the morning. More efficiency, more convenience, less family time, more sitting!
Then ... the internet! Now that home computer wasn’t just for balancing the checkbook ... we could do ALL of our banking on there! The whole world was at our fingertips! We could shop, research our homework, fill out paperwork for the doctor’s office, find somebody to show us how to repair our lawn mower, look up the lyrics to some obscure pop song, stalk an old high school sweetheart ... entertainment! The lines were beginning to blur between the two screens ... less family time, less face-to-face connection with actual people, more connected with humanity at large, still sitting.
Fast forward a decade or two and the dividing lines are completely gone. A “screen” is at home, at work, in your pocket, in your purse, in your hand ... we design the consoles of our cars to accommodate a screen, or else build it into the dashboard.
The Boob Tube exploded ... cable channels, internet channels, subscription channels, movie channels, pay-per-view. Nothing there interesting? Sign up on YouTube and create your own channel! Now everybody else can watch YOU!
And you’ll never again have to worry about missing a favorite show ... now you can record one show or a whole season! And all those programs we missed 30 years ago because we weren’t at home one Thursday night? No problem! Just do a Google or YouTube search. ... I guarantee you that somebody recorded that and you will find it somewhere on the internet! Want a fun weekend? Binge watch whole seasons of old or new shows over two days! Invite your friends over. Talk a little, but don’t get too carried away and make us miss something important in this next scene.
Somebody along the way noticed that we really weren’t interacting with each other as much anymore ... but we can’t shut down the screens ... social media was born! Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ... this was great! Now we were talking to each other! Well ... maybe talking AT each other is more accurate. In one-line quips, trying to get our points across ... because 90% of the time we’re more concerned with having other people hear us than us really listening to them.
So here we are today ... and I really struggle with all this. Having a website kind of forced me into Facebook world. I resisted. Then when I got into it, it really wasn’t so bad. Actually got to enjoying it a bit. But then I go through spells of getting really bored with it. And weary of feeling like the whole world is shouting at me. Everyone everywhere has something to say and they’re all looking for eyes and ears. And it’s all entertaining, but leaves me empty. I much prefer to spend an evening with a friend, phones off, and real conversation. That leaves me feeling full.
So I grumble about all the technology, because I remember the days when life was a little slower and quieter and I think it was better back then ... then I have to stop myself ... did you know there’s a verse in the Bible – Ecclesiastes 7:10 – that says Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Life is all about keeping everything in balance. And the truth is, I love all this cool technology, and doing graphics on my computer and poking around the internet. So let’s just settle down and enjoy life ...
Then the corona virus hit! And life stopped. And we holed up inside our homes for who knows how long. I had participated in a writers’ workshop just a couple of weeks before everything was shut down. And I remember thinking how glad I was that I had been able to do that. And I wanted to do some more of those, but when would I ever be able to again?
Now six months in and we’re all venturing out a little ... trying to find normal again ... but our world is still upside down! Those that didn’t lose their jobs are trying to get back to work. We want to send the kids back to school ... or should we? And just how are we going to keep businesses and jobs when we can’t meet with clients or co-workers?
But we’re not totally dead in the water ... and the reason we’re not ... the internet! Social media! Zoom! YouTube! And countless others that I don’t even know about. The very technology that had separated us from each other, is now keeping us connected!
Blessings and curses! All rolled up together into one neat package called technology!
How cool is it that I can still sign up for workshops? And our kids can still be in a classroom without leaving home? Or our clients can still be serviced from home offices? And the Monday morning meetings will go on as planned?
So for myself ... lesson learned! Anything or any situation in our life can be good or bad. And technology is just a neutral, static thing. But we can use it to make our lives better or worse ... let’s choose better!