Generally speaking, I love technology. I remember when the first portable keyboard came out. I was working at Carl Fischer Music in Chicago, and we received three Casio models. One was a glorified calculator, but the other two actually had accordion-sized keys. Low and behold, you could play melodies and chords on them!
They were small, with limited features, but they were portable! I had always envied guitarists, as they were able to carry their instruments around in cases or on their backs. This new technology was the long-awaited breakthrough for frustrated pianists and organists like myself. To be able to sit in my living room and make music on a coffee table – or out on the patio, or wherever I wanted — this was a dream come true!
Some years later we received our first Sony Walkman at a store where I was working. Talk about a game-changer. The Walkman and its descendents enabled us to take our favorite music anywhere and listen privately!
The Casio Keyboard and the Cassette Walkman made my life better. Fast forward thirty years – through the introduction of the PC, the laptop, the VCR, the DVD, the iPod, the Kindle, and the Smart phone. I’m living in a golden age. I have access to gadgets that make it easier to store information, make and listen to music, take and edit photos and video, talk, text, or stream, read books and receive up-to-the-minute news. These powerful tools have literally opened up the world to me and billions of others.
But what about the side-effects? If you’ve been shushed by someone who wants to answer a cell-phone call, you know that I’m talking about. If a colleague has interrupted a business meeting to announce a sports score just in, you get my drift. And if you’ve waited for your son or daughter to quit texting and answer a question, you feel my pain.
It”s too easy to play with our technological toys while ignoring the human in our presence. We reach out to cyber-wherever to communicate with cyber-whomever 24/7. But whatever happened to the magic of a face-to-face conversation? Are we becoming less skilled in the art of direct communication? As we tune in to everything “out there,” are we tuning out that which is “right here” – words, feelings, gestures, touch – human interaction in the presence of other humans?
I’m not advocating that we cast these wonderful gadgets asunder. They have a myriad of practical uses. But when I spot someone in a group, head down, staring intently at their phone, it makes me a little bit sad. Do they even realize what they are missing?
What do you think? Let’s start a conversation.