Thursday, September 06, 2007

Technology is Running My Life!

So I lost my cell phone somewhere in my house last week and went batty trying to find the damn thing. The battery had died, so I couldn't call the phone. I checked every room, every reasonable and odd place it might be (including going through the trash since I have mommy brain) and couldn't find that damn phone. I am telling you this story not so much to kvetch about losing my phone, but to share with you my meta-reflections on this incident. You see, the fact that I lost my phone created a kind of interruption in my life that seems odd.

All of the phone numbers that I need to call are programmed on the phone. I don't have long distance in my house, so I can't call people outside of my county unless I have my cell phone. And, I had no way to coordinate plans with Za, while running errands, without my cell. How has this tiny object, which used to be a luxury!, become so absolutely necessary to the functioning of my life. When I was in high school in the 80s, my Dad had a cell phone, which was always a sort of status symbol. He had this phone because he was a physician and it made it easier to respond quickly when he was on call.

Now, everyone--including their 6 year old--has a cell phone. It is hard to find public phones. Using land lines exclusively requires one to really plan things in advance well, since any mess ups are hard to fix if you don't have cell phones to find each other and change plans. I even find myself using my cell phone to call friends when I have gotten split up with them in the shopping mall. It is bizarre how quickly we assimilate new technology and make it essential to our daily lives.

Lately I have been trying to figure out how to cut monthly expenses--new daughter and all! I am struck by how emotionally difficult this is. Should I get rid of my cell phone? Should I get rid of our wireless connection at home? All of these decisions seem to render us dysfunctional. Without wireless, much of the work that Za and I do would suffer. More and more teaching is spilling over to emails and online software. Without a connection at home, we would have to either stay in the office longer, or go to a cafe and pay for service or at least a meal to earn the right to surf the web. If we give up our cell phones, then well, I am in that panic created by losing my cell phone last week.

And yet, none of these things were at all necessary to my life when I was in college and grad school. What is even weirder is to think that I never used a computer for school work until I was 18. My family didn't even own one. Technological innovations totally restyle our lives in ways that are expensive, that make us more forgetful, and perhaps lazy.

More importantly, it is clear to me how hard it is for us to be patient anymore. My daughter will never know what it is like to communicate with childhood friends via mail. She will not have to wait until a program she wants to watch is on TV again, because she can download it anytime. She will have no concept of not being able to easily call a friend living abroad because the cost is too prohibitive. She will most likely never write a paper, a letter, or a poem out by hand.

And, what drives me crazy now in wait time on the internet will seem like an eternity when she gets to be a teenager. The whole world is speeding up and we are unable to sit still and do nothing.