Technology….Warm and Fuzzy? I Think Not.

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We live in an age of “instant” communication through iPhones, computers, texting, Tweeting, and Facebook, among other venues. Some people feel the need to be in constant “communication” with the world through cell phones, which they keep attached to their ears at all times, almost like robotic appendages. It seems ironic to me that in a world that is becoming overpopulated, noisier, and more mechanized on a daily basis, the same world seems to be getting more impersonal and lonelier all the time.

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We suppose that a simple text message of, “Hi. I’m in frozen foods at the Piggly Wiggly” is worth sending (in whatever version of trimmed spelling) only because there is that opening for some kind of response, albeit as mundane as the message was. I’m not sure if this addiction to messaging creates the illusion of some level of badly needed intimacy, but it can also separate us further from the very world with which we want to feel in touch. Think of all those folks on streets, trains, in restaurants, theaters, even in cars, who are absolutely oblivious to what surrounds them, because they are consumed by those little cellphones, convinced that texting or chatting is of the greatest import. My question is “why?” What kind of emptiness is somehow filled by that prosaic activity that we imagine to be almost as significant as our own heartbeats?

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We have, as a society, come to believe that technology is the answer to all our problems. I realize that my assertion makes me look like a hopelessly outdated codger whose idea of fun might be a Saturday night taffy pull and square dance at the old barn and whose idea of advanced technology is a Model T Ford. In fact, I applaud modern advances that in some ways (i.e. in medicine) have made life safer and more enjoyable for most of us. My contention, however, isn’t with machines but rather with the people who have practically become cyborgs using the machines.

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I love to see people take vacations in nature at lakes, in cabins, in forests, at campgrounds, and at the seashore, where computers and cellphones are not the center of attention. Nature has a miraculous way of helping us to heal and to remember what is truly important beyond electrical devices, through fresh air and being together with other people (in person) without dependency upon the stunted, artificial language of text messaging, or the hypnotic embrace of TV. The problem I see is that we are not really in control of technology as much as technology is in control of us. We are numbed by a constant barrage of television commercials every ten minutes practically begging us to try new drugs and to watch thousands of news items from around the world in quantities and frequency that we can never hope to process emotionally, let alone intellectually. In that way we too are becoming machines with reduced intimate emotions in order to survive the onslaught of messages that bombard us with almost no break.

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I’m aware too that the comic irony of my essay is that I’m posting it on my blog and on Facebook, media supported by technology. In that way, maybe the final joke’s on me.    JB

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About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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