I think I have technology fatigue. I don’t just mean zoom fatigue, which like many of you, I’ve had for some time, but I mean just technology in general. Producing the podcast, animated shorts, virtual training courses and our online certification program on top of electronic communications, social media, remote desktop work, presentations, website maintenance and shared documents and drives, it’s a lot of software and apps. Add to that online shopping, health services, banking and other professional and personal web activity and apps, plus entertainment, and the security and passwords required become a little mind-boggling.
I took a few minutes to simply count how many user IDs and passwords I use on a regular basis. Over 80. And that’s by no means the full list, like frequent flyer accounts, charities, e-magazines and others that I don’t access weekly. That’s just what’s required for me to function on a typical week.
It’s not just all of the user names and passwords that are bogging me down, but keeping up with the updates, with the software and app changes, with how the changes affect other software and apps, and well, my brain is tired and it feels like technology is making my life harder, not easier.
There’s also the equipment needed to run all of the software and apps. At last count, we have 3 desktop PCs, 1 Apple PC, 3 laptops, two I-pads, a laser printer and an inkjet printer, two sets of speakers, 4 microphones, countless headsets, a multiple line telephone, a modem, a router, and a wi-fi booster. Wires and cables have become the bane of my existence.
I also have a remote problem. They seem to be breeding these days, as every room has multiple remote control units. The studio lights, the TVs – some of which require two each, the a/c units, the wall heaters, the outdoor lights and the ceiling fan all have remote controls. That’s a lot of batteries, let me tell you.
Then there’s wi-fi, which I thought would have fixed my wire and cable problem, but did not, but now everything is connected. In this one small house slash office, we of course have smart TVs to go with our smart phones, but we have a bed that requires wi-fi, a/c window units, wall heaters, the Xbox and more. I went to purchase a simple outdoor thermometer last week and guess what? Wi-fi. I don’t have smart appliances, at least yet, but I know many of you do meaning that because it’s connected to wi-fi, we can have our refrigerator make our shopping list and start the oven pre-heating on our way home from work. And of course, our workout equipment is connected, too.
Which all sounds great, but my concern now is that if the internet goes down, nothing in the house will work, including all of that technology I need to make money to pay for all of that technology. Am I the only person concerned about our crumbling infrastructure, including an internet system that was certainly not built for all of this? I’ve been very blessed to have an excellent internet connection for 20 years, but it has started crashing about once every week or two lately. When I contact my provider, via my smart phone of course since the wi-fi is down, it’s always because there’s “an outage in your area.” It comes back minutes to hours later, but there’s never any explanation as to why these outages are occurring. That does not build my confidence in adding more wi-fi products to this house.
There’s more technology here or on the way. Cars have become giant computers on the roads. And from mRNA vaccines to artificial intelligence to cryptocurrency to non-fungible tokens, technology progress, if that’s what we want to call it, is outpacing our ability to even follow it all.
Which brings us to the questions regarding mindfulness. Are we being mindful as we create this stuff and are we using all of this stuff mindfully? I seriously doubt it. I know we’re not paying attention to the environmental impact of all of these gadgets and circuit boards and for some reason I don’t fully understand, cryptocurrency. Most people are totally unaware of the dire impact on poor countries that happen to be rich in natural resources needed to produce more technology. As consumers, we also seem to be accepting corporations’ strategy to build in short obsolescence so that we have to replace all of these products more frequently, creating a vicious cycle of the just mentioned problems.
I also doubt that anyone’s paying enough attention yet to the impact on our brains from all of these electro-magnetic frequencies bouncing off our grey matter all day. And perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s noticing that technology has failed at it’s one original promise – to make life easier. Some of it did, for a while. It was certainly easier to look something up on a computer than to drive to a library, for example. It’s a lot easier to follow GPS on a smart phone than it was to carry around a 200 page Thomas guide. For those not in the know, this was the paper version of GPS – I kid you not. But now it feels like we’ve lost that original goal and are making stuff just because we can, not because we need it or because it will improve our lives.
It may sound shocking, but I can actually walk over to a wall heater and press a button with my finger or to a wall switch to flip a light on. I can’t actually walk over to a TV and press buttons anymore because they’ve removed the buttons, so I have to use a remote control. But most other things in the house can still operate the very old-fashioned way. And it’s frequently easier than replacing weird batteries and definitely cheaper. But I can’t function professionally anymore without technology, including wi-fi. And I can’t enjoy most entertainment at home without utilizing technology either. And that circles back to our infrastructure and our dependence on it for everything from hospital procedures to watching Netflix.
There’s also a psychological and sociological impact from all of this that we probably won’t fully understand for years. We know technology is messing with children’s social development. And we know depression is on the rise, partly due to isolation because people are spending all of their time with devices instead of other people. But I suspect the damage we’re doing will be farther reaching than that once the dust settles and we have a longer view.
I’m all for technology that’s useful and would love technology to save me time and work. But it feels that we’re moving in a different direction and that what we’re producing is excessive and in many cases, short-sighted. We can’t stop progress and we certainly can’t stop production of products that are making companies big profits. But we can consider how we use the products or whether we should even purchase them.
Smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches – these are misnomers. They’re devices, period. Only the users can be smart. Take a little time to consider how you use your technology. Think about what happens to your devices once you’ve moved on to the next big thing. Consider what we’re doing to our youngest generation and those that follow. And before you make your next purchase, pause and ask yourself if it’s really going to enhance your life. If it is, go for it. But if not, just consider why you’re considering it.
We all rely heavily on technology to work and play and many of us are blessed to have that option. We could choose to be grateful for the technology we use and work on become smarter users which will ultimately benefit all of us.
Until next time. We can live better lives and create a better world. All it takes to get started is a mindful moment.