I have an awkward relationship with technology. Because I was raised by two self-professed technophobes who were always very outspoken about technology’s detrimental and depersonalizing effect on human relationships, I assumed from a young age that all new technology (computers, Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc.) was intrinsically bad. I internalized the belief that life is better without technology, since my parents tend to glorify a more traditional lifestyle that’s completely technology-free. In fact, their home still has no Internet connection.
Having this mental wiring has made my own relationship with technology rather stressful. While using impressive technology such as my Macbook or iPhone, I fight a suffocating feeling of guilt, as if I’ve succumbed to some kind of soul-destroying force that is going to make my life less meaningful than it would be if I simply tossed them out the door. Every time I pick up my iPhone for a pointless Facebook check, I cringe inwardly, relieved that my parents can’t see how I’m ‘wasting time and brainwaves’ while engaging in impersonal interactions with people who I really should just call to meet for a coffee instead of messaging.
When my mom discovered my fifteen-year-old brother’s secret iPod purchase, she said, “I knew he’d get involved in it eventually” — ‘it’ being technology. I felt like pointing out that he wasn’t getting involved in drugs, just listening to music. It’s that attitude about technology being an addictive, damaging, drug-like substance that still rankles me.
Recently, however, I’ve become aware of several things. First of all, I belong to a very different generation than they do. It’s normal for older generations to feel skeptical and suspicious about new technological developments. The second thing is that, like it or not, my life has been revolutionized by technology. I don’t want to live in the bush with nothing but a bookshelf for company. My entire writing career has begun thanks to the online world and the portability of my laptop.
I want and need to learn how to enjoy technology without suffering from guilt. My upbringing alerted me to many valid points about technology’s negative impact, and I do keep those in mind at all times. More public discussion needs to be had about cell phone etiquette and remembering to engage with people around you, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing. I’m now trying to relax and not feel I have to account for every minute spent online. Technology can be good, even revolutionary, as long as it’s used intelligently.