By John Peters
August 12, 2013
A couple of days ago we had some computer problems in the office. Actually, it was more of an Internet problem that prevented most of the computers in our building from connecting. In order to fix the situation, we had to have everyone log off the Internet and shut down for a few minutes.
So there we were, a building full of people with no Internet access. You’d have thought a dome had fallen over the Mount Airy News, a little bit like the one in that television series “The Dome,” leaving us isolated from the rest of the world. We didn’t really know what to do, so, we stood around and made jokes about not knowing what to do.
I think we live in a wonderful period of time. Virtually the entire sum of human experience and knowledge is available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. We can talk, in real time, with someone half a world away.
No other time in human history has so much literally been right at our fingertips.
Instead of using this in some generally enriching way, unfortunately most of us revert to the lowest common denominator. We can learn and see things in a manner that was unimaginable just a decade or two ago, yet most of us use the Internet to watch inane videos and play games that waste time and add nothing of value to our lives. Rather than learn about another person’s culture and lifestyle through online exchanges, we post statements about what we ate for breakfast, what we’re wearing that day, how we spilled coffee on our shirt and now have to wear something else, and we confuse that with communication.
And if something happens and we can’t get online for a time, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome and encourage the advancement of technology and its use in our everyday lives, but I also wonder if we haven’t lost something. A friend of mine commented to me the other day how letter-writing seems to be a lost art, and I think she’s right. Read the letters of people from the 19th or even 20th century and you’ll see people with an ability to sit patiently and tell about their lives, the events and changes going on around them. You’ll see people able to express their devotion to another and share thoughts about the world in an engaging, well-reasoned manner.
Today, we get half-formed ideas written in shorthand that looks something like “Y u du that.”
Even more, I fear we’ve lost the ability to simply sit and think and appreciate our surroundings. I recall many evenings from my childhood and teen years sitting on the front porch with my parents. Sometimes we’d talk, other times we’d simply listen to the sound of the porch swing’s light screech, or the night-time song of the whippoorwill. I always felt those were important times, even if we never exchanged a word.
That was a more relaxing time, a more settled existence, and while I wouldn’t trade much of what we have in modern technology and convenience, I wish sometimes we could set it aside and simply be alone with our thoughts, our family and our friends.