While it’s impossible to have a well-balanced perspective on anything when you’re sitting in the middle of it, it’s hard not to think that we are living in a “Golden Age” for Technology. Think about it. Within my lifetime, I’ve seen the following items appear and become ubiquitous – part of the fabric of our lives (in no particular order):
- Color television
- Stereo audio
- Compact disc players
- Personal computers
- Cell phones
- Smart phones
- Tablets (iPads, et all)
- Wireless connectivity
- Microwave ovens
- Flat-panel displays
- Digital watches
- MP3 players
- Video calls
- Satellite radio
- The Internet
- Digital cameras
And I could go on, and on, and on. And look at what’s just coming on the horizon:
- Wired homes, with remote control via your smartphone
- Self-parking/self-driving cars
- Robots with artificial intelligence (kinda worried about this one)
- and more…
But for every advance, there’s something we lose. Scott Burns of the Dallas Morning News once said “A luxury, once sampled, becomes a necessity.” And I couldn’t agree more. I remember I lived quite well without an iPhone for most of my life. But I couldn’t imagine life for any extended period of time without it. Ditto for my computer. My iPad. My Jeep. Name one thing that technology hath wrought, and you’ll find something you could technically live without – but wouldn’t want to.
However, not everybody seems to be as jazzed about technology as most people. If you’re the type that puts people into two groups, you might think of them as the “Tech-friendlies” and the “Tech-averse,” or perhaps more aptly, the “Tech-dependent” and the “Tech-indifferent.” (Or if you wanna get pejorative about it, the “Tech-savvy” and the “Technophobes.”)
I’ve found that there’s an easy way to tell if someone embraces technology full-on, or if they view it as somewhere between a “necessary evil” and a “inconvenient convenience.” How? You simply observe, on the average, how often/quickly they return calls and messages.
Now I’m a big believer in NOT being held hostage to my cell phone. I remember, in my pre-cell phone days, I could get into my car and expect that time to be just me, alone with my thoughts. We used to call it “windshield time.” It was nice. You might be in the middle of traffic, but you could still have “quiet time” and just…think. Not any more. You’re almost always reachable, unless you’re off-the-grid, in the shower, or in a blackout. But just because you’re connected, doesn’t mean you have to take the call right away. I regularly prioritize calls, and take the urgent ones, letting the others go through to voice mail. Most people do, I think. But it’s the timeframe for returning said calls or texts that’s telling.
Let’s say someone texts you, with a question. You think they are important enough to answer immediately. You send a quick reply, and ask a question of your own. Now you know that person is on the other end of the line. Through the magic of iPhones, you know that they received the message and read it. And you wait…and wait…and wait some more, until you realize, they ain’t answerin’ any time soon. Might be a couple of hours later. Might be days. Eventually. you’ll get your answer. Now I don’t think they’re being rude. They just have a different outlook on technology than I do. Essentially, they do not feel the gravitational pull to play the game. They reply on their own timetable, without regard to yours, or technology’s.
I’ve got a buddy – my best friend, actually. He drives me nuts, because getting ahold of him is a totally random thing. There’s no telling if he’ll answer right away or not, even when I bloody well KNOW he’s online, at his computer or mobile device, and is typing away. Insane. It’s not because he doesn’t “get” technology. He’s one of the sharpest guys I know, and we’ve worked – together and separately – in high-tech for years. He’s just oblivious to the demands of tech. Doesn’t care. I’ve never known anybody that can be that plugged-in, tuned-in, and well-connected in the tech world, who is simultaneously oblivious to it. To him, technology is a tool, but one to which he is decidedly not addicted.
There’s another, less sure-fire way of telling, too. Do they have the latest and greatest tech? Do they stand in line on the first day of release, to get the new toys? They’re hooked. But if they’re content to have last-year’s model, or even more telling, if they wait until the device has reached “End Of Life” status before they upgrade, you could be looking at someone who is “Tech-Indifferent.” (Of course, if they’re on a tight budget, that could be a false positive. But if they are always buying the latest gear the day it comes out, they’ve got the fever, and there’s no denying it.)
So if you are a tech-savvy user and decry waiting on returned messages or find your friends are not instantly available in the Age of the Internet, don’t despair. Be aware, that they don’t see tech the way you do, and you’re just going to have to learn to live with that. And if you’re tech-indifferent, don’t be surprised when your tech-savvy friends get annoyed that they can’t reach you. Two worlds. Two points of view. But we can just all learn to get along.