I had an epiphany yesterday. I'm mad as hell.
It occurred to me that technology is progressing so rapidly, without balance or boundaries that we're not taking the time to consider the future impact on our society. Or worse, maybe we do, and don't care.
Let me explain.
In the morning I walked past a commercial playing on the Disney Junior channel that was so startling it felt like I had been slapped in the face. It was for Oral-B and featured a smiley child brushing her teeth with the assistance of an iPad propped up on the sink. Let that soak in for a hot second.
Then, I lost to my husband an intense game of rock, paper, scissors and ended up dining at his favorite guilty pleasure, Chili's. My eyes looked on in horror from table to table, each with it's own personal screen placed front and center and populated with fast, colorful, glitzy things to distract from any possible human interaction.
I threw it on the bench and covered it with my coat in the hopes my 3-year-old son did not catch sight of it only to lose to the 10 screens hanging on the wall in our section. He was gone, like a glass eyed zombie child. I snapped my fingers, pulled out crayons, asked "what do you like better: cupcakes, candy or donuts." He was present for less than a minute before he left again for the great big bug (kid) zapper in the sky.
To say I was mad at the close of the evening when my husband lay beside me with his very bright 6+ an inch from his face, is an understatement. So, I grabbed my notebook from the nightstand and began to create a list which I now realize looks more like an old school burn book.
- I'm mad as hell that a company is trying not only to market their product to my kid, but also take up the free space in his brain while he brushes his teeth. Some of the best ideas happen in the bathroom where we used to be truly alone with our thoughts. What was that old school thing we used to enjoy back in the day... oh yeah, imagination.
- I'm mad as hell that I can no longer have a conversation with my loved ones without the glow of their drug of choice written all over their beautiful faces.
- I'm mad as hell that there is a push to get iPads into Kindergartens and Elementary schools when it's still too early to know of all the repercussions from a technology that was only created in 2007. Not even a decade old and already a new study is waving red flags saying that the technology "interferes" with empathy and problem solving skills in children. Steve Jobs would be mad as hell too. His kids were raised without his technology.
- I'm mad as hell that bicycle riding has gone down 20 percent in the last decade while screen time, obesity, narcissism and ADHD have increased dramatically.
- I'm mad as hell that teenagers think that their worth is based on a like, comment, or share, spending hours alone in their room filtering photos just-so to enhance their personal brand. Or worse, sit side-by-side doing same and never talk face to face.
- I'm mad as hell that people expect me to be accessible whenever they want. Gone are the common courtesy manners of "don't call after 9 p.m." Now, text messages are dropped like little interruption bombs any time of day.
- I'm mad as hell that Google isn't happy enough with total domination in the virtual world but are also looking to take ahold of young eyes and minds is the real world, as well as creep into our bodies and brains through wearables, and implants.
- I'm mad as hell that we live in a society where Kurt Shilling congratulates his daughter on Twitter and internet trolls hide behind screens slinging vile jokes and threats at an innocent girl with the stroke of a key. And that we shrug our shoulders because "eh, its the internet."
- I'm mad as hell that I have to pay $30 a class for Pilate's to combat my posture from working in front of a screen all day and texting. Our physical evolution is rewinding to the stone age.
- I'm mad as hell that handwriting is being deemed unnecessary as our communication is now only a keystroke away. What's lost? Besides the love of note taking, journaling, letters, kids were better able to generate ideas and retain information when written.
- I'm mad as hell that I can't enjoy live performances because people feel the need to document EVERYTHING. With all those glowing hands in the air how am I too see Prince shake it, Louis C.K. smirk it, or watch the home run by the Yankees' new boy in pinstripes?
- I'm mad as hell that mechanical minds (robots) are on their way to replace humans and no one besides Elon Musk seems to be the least bit concerned about it. Well, to be fair, the people who created the movie the Singularity are. But honestly, that may have done more harm than good. Sorry, Johnny.
- I'm mad as hell that by me not "adopting" each new gadget, people automatically categorize me as a Luddite. I can assure you I am not (not that there's anything wrong with that). I just practice Mindful Tech. Meaning I manage it...it doesn't manage me.
When something is "innovative" it usually means it's easier, cheaper and faster. These qualities may technically make it a better. But is it better for us? For society? For the world? We could look to John Sylvan, the inventor of the K-Cup, who just recently admitted he regrets the innovation.
The question therefore begs to ask; just because we can do something, does it mean we should? And if we are going to create the next new innovative, groundbreaking ______ (insert anything), then shouldn't we be responsible for the outcomes? What if we began reaching each new potential height in tech with a mindful approach? Balance and boundaries could go a long way in keeping us from shooting our collective self in the foot.
Not following? Hear me out.
Imagine if Steve Jobs created the iPad with a warning label on the packaging similar to cigarettes or diving into three feet of water. Would we be pushing them on our kids like drug dealers?
Imagine if there was a heavy dose of shame around whipping your phone out and sending communications wherever and whenever you damn well pleased. Would we be able to get back to enjoying dinners without the interruption from a coworker's oh-so-important email (insert eye roll) at 8 p.m.?
Imagine that we thought twice before we obediently nodded, waited in lines like lemmings, and said yes "I must have it" when the "next big thing" is released. And during that second thought, maybe we looked up and sensed that our liberties were being pushed, or our kids, or our jobs, or our health, or our moral fiber, or our future happiness. Maybe that second thought allowed us the space in our brain to do what our elders always encouraged... question everything.
And in that questioning maybe you realize that you're mad as hell too. Mad that while you were looking down at a screen, the world was hurtling towards a future that existed only through them and/or because of them.
You may be scared because you do not have any of the answers, hell, I am. But now you have the important part, the questions. "Is this OK? Is it making my life better? What's happening to our society?" And so on.
Our world is sprinting forward while we are asleep at the wheel (bug zapper), into one where our tech is consuming us. Where we are all becoming more shackled and imprisoned by the innovations to which there seemingly is no escape.
Are you OK with that?
I for one, am not. And I am sick of it being a one sided conversation because we lost the little bit of rebel in us that knew to question everything.
Friday March 6th is the National Day of Unplugging. Are you mad as hell? Ready to rebel? Today might be a good place to start.
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