Not Loving Technology, but Learning to Appreciate It

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I found Howard Rheingold's article "Look Who's Talking" in Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age by Evelyn B. Tribble and Anne Trubek fascinating for two reasons.  First, I really did not know much about Amish society, and what I did know was based mainly in hearsay.  However, I really enjoyed the article because the Amish have what I think is a very refreshing view of technology.  I am not technologically savvy at all, and I do not really enjoy using technology very often.  Yes, I have a computer and cell phone, but I rarely use them for anything fun.  Occasionally, I'll watch a movie on my computer or shop online, but this is really the extent of my use aside of school work.  As for my cell phone, I use it to talk to my family and a few close friends, but that is really it.  I do not text often, and if you got one of my texts, you would see basically proper spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.  At school, I don't even have cable in my room.  Do I value these forms of technology?  Of course.  They allow for ease of certain forms of communication as well as provide an outlet for many important recreational and professional activities. 

However, I also think that technologies such as these lead to tons of wasted time and in many cases a lack of certain forms of communication.  Rheingold raises some of the same questions that I have: "How often do we interrupt a conversation with someone who is physically present in order to answer the telephone?  Is the family meal enhanced by a beeper? Who exactly is benefiting from call waiting? Is automated voicemail a dark hint about the way our institutions value human time and life?  Can pagers and cell pones that vibrate instead of ring solve the problem?  Does the enjoyment of virtual communities by growing numbers of people enhance or erode citizen participation in the civic life of geographic communities?" (387).  My roommates love technology, which is great because they know a lot more about it than I do and benefit from this, but which is also not great because they sometimes do very silly things.  Once, we were all quietly working on our computers in the same room, when two of them started giggling.  I asked what they were laughing about, looked at one of their screens, and I realized they were instant messaging each other.  They were sitting beside each other on the couch.  Need I say more?  I am also so glad Rheingold brought up "virtual communities" because I think that Facebook is one of the biggest time wasters today.  I cannot count the number of times I have gone into a computer lab on a beautiful, sunny day because I had to do school work and found at least one person on Facebook.  And don't even get me started on Farmville.  Please, just go and plant your own garden.  At least then there will be an actual product of your time. 

Anyway, I will get down off my soap box.  I just believe that technology inhibits real conversation, real interest in humanity, and real living.  I think that the Amish have a great view of technology.  They use it and see its value, but they do not let it rule their lives.  Rheingold puts it perfectly: “Far from knee-jerk technophobes, [the Amish] are very adaptive techno-selectives who devise remarkable technologies that fit within their self-imposed limits” (382).  I think this is a very healthy way to think about technology.  I know that I would benefit from such a perspective because I am quick to avoid technology instead of looking at the benefits of it.  Am I going to give up my cell phone and occasional Internet shopping?  No, but I am going to look at the ways I use and value technology and think about how this impacts my life.  Who knows, maybe I will even find a positive use for Facebook.

 

Take a look at what my classmates have to say about Rheingold's essay.

     

2 Comments

Erica, though I do not FULLY share your ideas on technology, I enjoyed your thoughts. (Especially, about Farmville.) I have to admit that I am a frequent user of all forms of technology and actually find them all convenient, but like you (and the Amish) can see where they can lead to problems. I am not one of those people that cannot see outside of their computer screen but Facebook and my email are the first places I go when I have nothing better to do.

You have a Great Website and interesting Article, thanks !!

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