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OP/ED: In tech we trust?

Technology rocks.

Just look at all of wonderful things it has brought into our lives … I can sit here on my couch with my coffee and my mini laptop and send this to my editor within seconds of finishing. I can listen to 800 different songs on something that’s smaller than a box of tic tacs. I can tweet, google, facebook, text, blog, email, skype, youtube, watch the news, movies, and all my favorite shows from a tiny handheld device.

It’s great! We can connect with friends and family far away, watch each other’s children grow up, meet the partner of our dreams – all online. The benefits are endless, right?

Yes … and no.

I mean, you’ve got to admit, there are some serious downsides to this stuff. Gone are the days of the annoying giggly teenaged girls in stores, movie theaters, or parents’ basements. Now they are quiet, thumbs and eyes glued to their cell phones, typing lol, ttyl, brb, and sending each other various emoticons. Sure, as a parent, I can see the beauty, but is it really healthy? I mean, aren’t teenaged girls supposed to be loud, annoying, and giggly?

Why is it that there are children with ‘nature deficiencies’? Why is it that my seven-year-old whines when I tell him to shut off the games because we are going outside? Why is it that when my internet goes down, I feel like I am in a dark little box, isolated from all of society?

Another thing I question is, are these online interactions real?

I have a large number of ‘friends’ on Facebook. We ‘like’ each other’s pictures and comment on each other’s posts. But sometimes, when we run into each other in the real world, the conversations can be kind of awkward. It’s as if, when we are shielded behind the safety of a computer screen, we become different people. We are braver, funnier, and more opinionated. Yet when we meet in public and are exposed, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

I have also had the experience of one of my online ‘friends’ ignoring me in a grocery store. I didn’t even get a nod of recognition or a wave. And, oh yes, they definitely saw me.

What the heck, I thought we were ‘friends’? What about all those times that you ‘poked’ me, didn’t that mean anything?!

I was left feeling electronically heartbroken.

WHAT ‘S GOING ON?! Am I the only one who finds this crazy?

Now that I am fully ranting, here’s another pet peeve: I can’t stand when I am having dinner or coffee with someone and every two seconds their phone beeps with yet another text message. Can they ignore the text message until we are done? Heavens no! They must check it right away, smirking at the little jokes and texting back before putting their phone down and coming back to the real world with a “Sorry, you were saying?”

ARG!

The worst part is, I have been guilty of some of these things (sigh). I have wasted time on the internet, perusing different profiles or websites when I could have been doing something productive. I have used the computer, movies and video games as a tool to get my kids to stop running around, squealing, and having loud obnoxious fun. It’s amazing to watch (and sometimes irresistible); as soon as you let your kids ‘plug in’ – SILENCE.

Beautiful, sweet silence.

But it’s not supposed to be that way! Kids are supposed to get dirty. Kids are supposed to be loud. Kids aren’t supposed to get Arnold Schwarzenegger thumb muscles while the rest of their muscles atrophy.

Are we all just a bunch of internet and electronic junkies?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater.

I mean, obviously, I write a column for an online newspaper, for Pete’s sake. I use the internet to connect with people socially every day, I prefer to email rather than talk on the phone, and I enjoy all the gifts technology has brought us. I just think it’s gone a bit too far.

So how do we balance it?  How do we keep it all in check?

I hope you’re not waiting for me to answer those questions because I don’t have a clue.

But I am committed to taking certain actions to help monitor my electronic use. I vow to be more aware of the time I spend online and spend more time doing things outdoors. I vow to delete anyone who doesn’t treat me like the awesome online ‘friend’ that I am. I vow to yell at teenagers when they are quietly ‘plugging in’ instead of engaging in irritating, loud, and reckless behaviour like they should be. And last but not least, if I am visiting with someone and they so much as glance at their handheld device, I vow to beat them within an inch of their sad little lives, to remind them that this is rude.

I believe if we all just take small actions like that, we will be able to responsibly enjoy the gifts that technology has brought us without completely losing the ability to interact face-to-face. We will still be able to surf, email, upload, and download, while still remembering that there is a beautiful world outside just waiting to be explored.

Oooh wait, hold on a sec, I just got a text.

Sorry, where were we?