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Carole Montgomery Headshot

We Are Overdosing on Technology

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My smartphone died on me this week, two months after the warranty expired... I don't want to out the company here, but let's just say it rhymes with "Samsung." I was leaving for an important business trip, so I grabbed my old Blackberry (it has 3G!) and begged my carrier to please switch my number back to that phone. Here's something I didn't know and you probably don't either: you don't have to beg them to do that. In fact, changing phones mid-contract is something a lot of people do. Probably because the companies specifically make them to fall apart after one year, knowing full well you signed a TWO YEAR contract.

Last night, my adult son informed me online that his phone went kaput too. My first reaction was panic, I WON'T BE ABLE TO REACH HIM EVER AGAIN... and then I realized I was just talking to him ONLINE. I love the internet for that reason alone. Once when I had a plane layover in Africa after doing a tour for the troops, I was able to have an online conversation with him even though we were thousands of miles apart and I was in a war zone with no phone service. I love being connected to him that way. To be honest, I never truly felt that I'd cut my son's umbilical cord until his phone stopped working. There was even a point when he was a toddler that I seriously contemplated putting a chip in him like my cat to know where he was at all times. (Don't worry, no one took me seriously but dammit, I STILL think it's a good idea!)

So I thought, would my son be okay going off phone? I mean he's 21 and not having a phone is akin to losing a limb to a millennial, but he said he was cool for a few days until we got a replacement. He even said he liked the idea of being cut off from the digital world for a bit.

This brings me to the bigger point. Look, I know I'm an old bitch and I may be pulling an Andy Rooney here, but since he's no longer on this earth, someone's gotta say it! We're all connected online, yet we don't communicate as humans. We are all so self-important looking down at our phones that we never have to engage with each other ever again. It was a big deal when my son finally got his first cell phone at 13. I waited a few years before I finally succumbed to the madness. Now, kids have them in kindergarten and they watch their Saturday morning cartoons on a iPad, while mom watches Real Housewives on her Kindle.

And that got me thinking, have we gone too far with technology? You cannot walk down a street, go to a movie or ride a car without somebody looking at their phone. No one is paying attention anymore, and if that's the case you can't be pissed when bad shit happens.

Anyone remember encyclopedias? You had to buy the whole set, usually 30 + volumes. That's right, hard cover, heavy BOOKS. And every year there was an additional volume for all the new info, cause as soon as you bought your bunch, the info became obsolete. I think I one point we had over 100 books... AND I still have them somewhere cause who wants to carry 100 books out to the trash? We didn't have google or bing or whatever the hot new search engine is. I like having information at my fingertips, but I do also pine for the old days. Going to the bookcase, looking for the right letter, taking out the book, looking for the information alphabetically. We were smarter back then cause we had to be.

When I was 21 and on my own I would go weeks, sometimes months, without talking to my parents. As a teenager, I would leave my apartment early in the morning and was gone all day sometimes, especially in the summertime when there were boys to talk to at the beach all day long! The day I first took a bus by myself I felt so grown up sitting there, unencumbered from the shackles of my parents. I can't fathom a day without talking to my son. Even when I don't hear from him for awhile, there's always Facebook. I see that little green dot on FB chat and I know he's at home safe. I have NO idea how my parents survived not knowing my every move. Oh wait, it was the 70's, so the pot took their attention away from me and onto the bag of screaming yellow zonkers in front of them.

Today it seems we are so wired I fear for us all. Everything is photographed and written down for what? Is it really better than paying attention and experiencing life IN THE MOMENT?
I don't think heaven has wifi. They don't need it, all their info is in the cloud. And really, does Grandma needs to update her status while waiting for her medications? Honestly, if aliens ever do land on our planet, no one will notice cause we'll all be taking selfies.

I got my son a new phone after two days without one through some good old-fashioned finagling, and as much as he said he was enjoying being disconnected, he didn't look up from his phone for the rest of the day.

And I kinda like my old blackberry. It has a keyboard and I can actually hear my phone calls! But it's so out-of-date, all my friends make fun of me! It's like playing Pac-man in a sea of Call of Duty.

I don't think my generation will ever understand the pull of smart phones the way our kids do. First of all, at my age I can't even see the screen! You're gonna have to make one the size of a flat screen TV and that's just not practical.

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