Today we often joke about going back to a simpler day, when we weren’t all consumed by our multimedia devices. I personally have said for years that I feel like an old soul, who would fit in much better in an era of horses, writing letters and reading books, instead of rushing about in our cars and watching a computer screen all day. I even compare the childhood of my generation of going outside to play backyard football and building forts in the woods, to the kids today who seem to never leave their rooms.
However then I have to appreciate the instantaneous, universal communication capabilities. Because when you take away our devices, you take with them real knowledge of other human beings, that would otherwise be absent. Then that thought makes you wonder what atrocities might have been avoided in history if today’s technologies had been around throughout the centuries. Knowledge brings enlightenment and understanding. When I would build those hidden forts in the woods as a child of the 80’s, ignorant propaganda filled my fantasies as I anticipated having to hide and defend against Soviet Communists. I wonder who my imagined “enemies” would have been, had I been able to talk to and become friends with kids just like me in Moscow. How many innocents would have been spared in as recently as 1994’s Rwanda, if the Tutsis had been able to “tweet” to the world? What bigotry would have been stamped out if an African American man had cell phone video in 1950’s Alabama? Could Americans have really justified the Native American genocide if they had to watch YouTube videos of families dying on the “Trail of Tears”?
Yes, we all may get annoyed at the loud, obnoxious guy on his Bluetooth, in line at Starbucks. In present times, the teenage girl texting and driving, is a real threat. Being attached at the ear to our cell phones, apparently, has made us more susceptible to brain tumors. All this, at times, may seem like just a social trend and completely expendable. However, being able to hold people accountable for their actions, with real time evidence, and seeing the world through other people’s eyes, is not.
No I don’t really believe the world would be better off without our “gadgets”. I guess I’ll have to settle for the momentary social liberation of leaving the phone in the truck for my weekend camping trips.