“The first victim, or one of the first, was my telephone. Murder most foul. I shoved it in the kitchen Insinkerator! Stopped the disposal unit in mid-swallow. Poor thing strangled to death. After that I shot the television set!” -Mr. Albert Brock (AKA The Murderer), from Ray Bradbury’s short story The Murderer
That’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite short stories where an insane miscreant, bent on violence, wages war against all forms of technological devices – especially those pernicious noise-making appliances. Mr. Brock systematically kills, maims, and destroys everything in his “talking, singing, humming, weather-reporting, poetry-reading, novel-reciting, jingle-jangling, rockaby-crooning-when-you-go-to-bed house.” The story is equally hilarious and ridiculous, but it offers some serious food for thought about how modern innovation is affecting our quality of life.
In this age of rapid technological expansion, new digital conveniences are emerging faster than we can keep track of. So fast, in fact, that we aren’t totally capable of predicting the consequences of such a cultural shift. For example, we just don’t know if the minuscule radiation given off by cell phones will increase the risk of brain cancer long term. Studies have shown correlative results, but are inconclusive. Sure, a lot of people (in a fringe minority) are concerned about it, yet mobile phone use is still rising almost as fast as the National Debt (ok, maybe not that fast!). We’re a part of a grand experiment with life-altering consequences, and we won’t know the final results until it’s too late. But at least we’ve got apps now.
If you’d like to get an idea of how digital technology has changed our day-to-day lives, and you don’t mind risking the immediate onset of depression, please take a look at the infographic below.
Created by: Online Schools
Amazing how things have changed, eh? Are you shocked? Revolted? Or does this strike you as perfectly normal and now you’re wondering what my problem is? Well, just because something has become the norm doesn’t mean it’s normal, folks.
“That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.” — Paul Valery
Of course, we do know some of the ill-effects that digital technology has on our health and lifestyle, but it doesn’t seem to phase us. I mean, how bad for our eyes can these little screens really be? I work at a computer daily and can see just fine. Plus, my wife’s glasses’ prescription only changes every couple of years. And heck, most people don’t even notice that they have chronic tension all throughout their bodies as a result of computers, tablets, and smart phones. I mean, who even has time to notice?
And perhaps that’s one of our biggest problems. We don’t even notice the effects of this technology because we’re too busy using them. Someone or something has convinced us that our lives will be immensely improved from having them, and more importantly, that our lives will be missing something vital if we don’t have them. So, to hell with the side effects. Carpe diem! Live a little, right? Well, as one of my coaches is fond of saying, I prefer to live a lot! There are things in this life that are indeed vital, and they don’t have touchscreens, microchips, or hard drives.
How to Live in a World of Technological Chaos Without Becoming a Mass Murderer
So, yet again, we are faced with a grand predicament that appears to have no logical, or at least desirable, solution. Technology offers wonderful things, and some of the tools we have today are almost beyond belief in their abilities. Obviously, we have become utterly dependent on a litany of modern conveniences, many of which have now become essential for our very survival. I mean, I could not SURVIVE without my Angry Birds!
All kidding aside, we have an important question to answer: what can be done to find a healthy balance between accepting and using technology for what it is (an incredibly valuable tool), and not allowing it to negatively impact our health and lifestyles – or at least do some damage control?
Well, you can start by turning things off, for one. There was a time when I left my phone turned on 24/7 – even right next to my bed as I slept. Yep, back in the day, I was part of that 83% statistic above – and I even knew better! These days, I turn my phone off every single night, and usually hours before going to sleep. If you called me in the middle of the night with an emergency, you wouldn’t get through. Sorry. If the world entered an age of nuclear war overnight, I’d sleep right through it.
I even turn the phone off when (gasp!), I’m busy working and don’t want to be interrupted, or any other time I don’t want a phone call. Entire days have gone by where I have actually forgotten to turn on my phone. And you know what? Everything has been just fine – even peachy. The world didn’t end. My family hasn’t left me. I still have my job and my friends keep calling and leaving messages anyways. On top of that, the radiation level in my brain has finally stabilized and my ears are no longer glowing green.
The Big Picture
Turning stuff off is merely a small step in the right direction, but it is a start. There are many other things we can do, of course. You could unplug for one day a week to start off, or if you want to get really adventurous, consider a career change. But what’s more important than what we do is that we start thinking about these things on a daily basis. Start asking yourself, “do I really need this and is it actually making my life better?” Also ask, “what are the benefits and what are the costs?”
What we really need more than anything else is a new perception because the first step in positive change is being aware of the problem. If you don’t admit there is a problem or if you don’t take personal responsibility for it, then you’ve guaranteed failure from the start. On the other hand, if you identify the problem, you provide a framework for a solution. It requires time and commitment along with some knowledge and critical thinking about how you want to live your life. It also requires a willingness to challenge your personal beliefs, even if it means going against conventional wisdom. It takes effort to do any introspection, but the process and end-results are worth it.
If you change your perception, you won’t need a top 10 list of ways to simplify your life, or the biggest, baddest technology hacks. You will have a self-sufficient radar for identifying what you truly need and what will truly benefit you. And that means everything gets much simpler.
Before we close, I must give credit to my twelfth grade English teacher, Mrs. James, who inspired a love of literature in a young man who “just doesn’t like books.” For my younger audience, a “book” is what old folks used to read before the Internetz! I didn’t do much reading growing up, and when I did, it was usually because I had to for school – almost never by my own choosing. All that changed when a one-year-out-of-college, brand new English teacher opened up the world of great literature to me and my classmates. The passion Mrs. James exhibited for her work struck a nerve, and literature has been a part of my life ever since – something that nobody would have expected, especially me.
So much wisdom has been passed along through the written word, and many of our modern dilemmas have already been encountered, solved, and documented by our predecessors. The rising technological dilemma is one of them.
If you’d like to read one of my all-time favorite short stories, then check out Ray Bradbury’s The Murderer at the link below. The full text is available for free, and it’s only a few pages long. I think it’s probably even more relevant today than when it was written in 1953. Given the time disparity, be sure to replace the story’s wrist radios with Ipod’s and the radio transmitters with smart phones. You’ll get the idea.
Keep in mind that this is merely one solution for the modern technology dilemma, and I’ll let you decide whether or not you think it would work. After you’re finished, you’ll understand why we’re all going a little crazy, and I’d love to hear your thoughts when you’re finished reading (and laughing)!
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CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Health-First Fitness Coach