By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila
The social landscape is changing. I may be out of style and technology-challenged, and yes, I’m realize that I’m near the bottom of the widening generation gap. But I want to share some of my concerns with you, firstly about printed books vs e-books, and secondly, about how the rapidly changing technologies are affecting the society. You may agree or not, it’s up to you. Anyway, here goes …
Several weeks ago I posted on my FB page a cartoon about a conversation between an i-pad and a book. Their conversation went something like this: i-pad: “It’s over, book, you’re an inferior technology. Your big, chunky format is irrelevant. Just a touch of this flame (from a match) and you’d be gone forever.” The book didn’t argue, it just reached over and turned the i-pad off!
Despite the new “advanced” technologies I still prefer the friendship of books that never have to be upgraded or recharged, dependent on whether there is electricity or not, whether there is an available wifi source. To me a book is a friend that can be embraced in one’s heart, shared, given away, or just kept in one’s library to be reviewed from time to time.
Personally I find that that the printed word on the book page is so much more reader friendly and interesting than that same word floating around somewhere in the cloud. Turning pages to find a special quotation is more fun than trying to remember how many times I need to scroll up or down to find that passage, and wondering in what file I saved it, or even if I had saved it.
An author’s thoughts, ideas and stories many times need to be read and re-read in order for them to be internalized and treasured in my memory. Of course it helps that I inherited a semi-photographic memory from my grandfather. It works with words written on a page, but doesn’t work well on the electronic page.
Yes, I understand that this new fast-forward technology is the “in” thing and according to my granddaughters in college, much simpler and easier on the pocket to have their research material on hand whenever they need it. Certainly having an i-pad or i-pod (whatever…) is easier to carry to class than a backpack of books.
But I pause to wonder – have the young people of today ever had the pleasure of wandering through the aisles of a library and suddenly discovering books that spoke to them: ‘open me, savor what I have to tell you’? Has today’s generation ever enjoyed reading a mystery novel in bed through the night without worrying about recharging the “book’s” battery? What about the bookmark with the picture of your family on it, have you used it in a book, or is it gathering dust in your desk because your i-pad doesn’t need a bookmark? My questions could go on and on …
Don’t get me wrong … I don’t mean for us to retrogress fast-backward from our social, educational, economic, etc., progress of today. I also realize I’m near the bottom of the generation gap. But I feel that in order to appreciate the progress of today, we need to be able look back to things we enjoyed before, and keep the ones that really mean something to us not only as fond memories, but in the case of books, on our bookshelves, on our bedside endtables, near our favorite chair in the sala, wherever we may have a bit of time to de-stress ourselves with a good book.
Let’s face it. I love books, I love the printed page, I love paging through a well-worn scrapbook. And I know that with books in my life, I will never be lonely.
The social landscape to a great extent revolves around the ease with which we are able to interact and to relate with each other, to live in harmony with each other, our family, friends, neighbors, and even with those whom we interact with in our workplaces. We need to ask if the new technologies that are anchored in the impersonal i-cloud build, nourish and strengthen such relationships or just widen the gap between people.
We can see that the improving technologies are good when they enhance and strengthen integral human development, when they promote the dignity of the person and help us improve our quality of life. Such technology is good when it enables us to dynamically bond together, build meaningful relationships, become more sociable and responsible, and experience the humanness and connectedness of family and community life.
Technology is good when it enables quicker, more informed and more balanced business and personal decisions. It is good when it results in rapid response to critical situations, calamities, and disasters, and helps prevent misunderstandings that might lead to violence or war.
So we can see that most of the advances in communication technology are quite beneficial to us … if we use them rightly.
However, the same advancements in the wired world are bad when they seek to replace human dignity with robotic reactions to situations. It is bad when the invisible information highways promote anonymity and replace face-to-face interactive communication, thus blurring the human character and downgrading social competence. I have experienced that in many, but not all, instances wherein texting is replacing talking, that the abbreviated text language is gradually replacing the user’s facility in using good grammar, complete sentences, and logical rational thinking.
Another area of social concern lies in the use and/or abuse of the Internet. Take for instance the FaceBook trends. Yes, we are able to keep more closely in touch with our “friends”. But it is not good when this popularity and media-driven culture promotes insubstantial instant popularity that is not necessarily factual, truthful, or real. I find it even a bit scary that the uninhibited i-cloud is gradually replacing parental influence and control over our children’s age-appropriate development with its habit-forming instant and oftentimes questionable activities.
The social landscape is indeed changing … whether for the better or for the worse is up to each one of us. No matter what technology’s influence is in our lives, to me the bottom line is that high tech must never replace humanity, The Age of the Instant seems to be taking over social, cultural, and traditional norms. People feel they need to be in the middle of what is happening, to be in the “NOW” moment, forgetting to make time to support their high-tech savvy with strength of character and a morally true value system that are the essential foundation of any authentic social system and society.
We need to take a moment to remember that our humanity springs from God, not from technological or intellectual innovation. When i consider the ways in which technology is influencing the NOW by subtly rearranging relationships, the way we think and react, and the ways it is changing community and societal structures, culture and beliefs, I begin to wonder about what life will be like for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. What will their lives be anchored on? On faith in God and His eternal love for us, or on the ever-shifting and stormy shadows of the i-cloud?