I don’t think I am doing a terrible thing by saying I was born towards the end of the decade of the 70’s. Back in the day I recall we had to write a composition entitled, My favourite television programme and I had to get a revised topic since we did not have a television at the time.
Perhaps this was a defining moment in my life where I believed that technology was something I could well do without. Give me a book any day, and I mean one that I can hold in my hands and turn the pages; one where the words lift themselves off the tangible paper and travel through my eyes and become imprinted on the shelves of my mind forever. There is just something about a book, a real book.
I find myself in a difficult place – I prefer to take notes with pen and paper, but I now live in a society where the goal by the year 20-something is to be a paperless; I need to keep in touch with friends and family ‘over in away’, but sending postcards is almost a thing of the past; I want to pass on my love of books to my children, but whole volumes can easily be downloaded onto a device.
Unwillingly with a near-snarl on my face I am being dragged into the world of technology, my heels leaving a trail of despair and trepidation as the future urges me on. The codes and the apps are like the tentacles of an octopus that have stuck on to her prey with no intention of release. With a sigh I have resolved that technology is here to stay and it is already so ingrained in our lives most of us cannot survive without it. Allow me to illustrate.
Seated in a rural church one glorious Sunday morning I recall being a little tired and looking forward to the end of service. I heard the pastor calling upon one of the members to read the morning’s lesson. This is not an unusual occurrence but the response was definitely modern – ‘Certainly pastor, but I have to turn on my tablet first.’ I have not perfected the art of controlling the emotions of shock and awe and I am sure that my unruly jaw descended whilst my eyebrows shot up in the air.
We look at the choir stalls and the choristers now have tablets instead of hymnals, and our hymns, choruses and Bible readings are all projected onto a screen. No sphere of society has been left untouched by technological advances, including medicine.
Medical procedures are televised and delicate surgeries are supervised across continents. Classes can be taught from the closet of a lecturer, and patients can have automated reminders when their prescriptions need to be renewed. I had my own experience just a few days ago when I questioned a young lady about the date of her last menstrual period. She initially tried to pull the date from her memory, but that failed. Suddenly I saw her face light up and she started to dig into her handbag. What was I thinking when I expected this 20-something year old to pull out a pocket diary with dates neatly transcribed? With a smile on her face she pulled out her mobile and said to me, ‘I have an app for that.’ Needless to say I was floored.
This prompted me to do some research as I realized that I was glaringly deficient when it came to this ‘app thing’. I was proud of myself for at least knowing that app was short for application but that was the extent of my knowledge. Apparently, an app is a software programme that can be downloaded onto a mobile device, to perform a specific function for the user, or be used by another application.
I am not being a hypocrite when I say technology is wonderful. The numerous advances in the world of medicine can reach the far corners of the world to help those previously disadvantaged; an artist in Barbados can sell paintings to a curator in Egypt; we can stay in contact with our relatives overseas; a wounded veteran can walk again; all of these things and so many more all because of technology. After all I’m using technology to write this article.
But there is something technology cannot replace and it is the human presence and its effect. Whilst someone might want to do so, the creation of an app for instilling discipline and teaching politeness can never (in my humble opinion) be as effective as modelling said behaviour to our charges. An icon in a chat can never replace the warmth of a hug or an encouraging pat to see an individual through a challenging period. Is there an app than can adequately replace the ‘rod of correction’ that drives the ‘foolishness bound up in the heart of a child’ far from him? I remain convinced in my belief that there is no app that can reproduce the look on a lover’s face when he or she receives that silently dreamed of gift.
Several resources say that children, aged two to five years, should not have more than one hour of screen time per day. Let that sink in. By the time our children are two they are quite adept at swiping across a screen and a few months after that, some are capable of surfing the Internet. We are well aware of the havoc that is being wreaked by videos being streamed across the world of inappropriate behaviour originating from our tiny island.
Technology is here to stay and that is a good thing. However, we must guard ourselves against the impersonality that it can impose if we allow it to. Our children need to be protected from themselves and from villains on the Internet and it is our responsibility as adults so to do. I wonder, is there an app for controlling this jaw of mine?