MINDFUL LIVING: Technology Café

By Cybèle Elaine Werts

Cybèle Elaine Werts has been writing the Mindful Living column for several years, publishing it with several local newspapers. She has also written various other columns including a movie review column and profiles on Vermonters. She works as a Production Coordinator at Learning Innovations at WestEd in Williston, Vermont where she does technical writing, graphic design, and project management.

One summer when I was in college, I traveled across the country to visit my mother in California. On the way back from the airport she stopped at an ATM to get some cash. Even though these machines had been around for awhile, she never had quite gotten used to them. “I’d rather stand on line at the bank,” she said with a sharp nod of her head, “and talk to a real person!” That day was a Sunday though, and I watched her as she struggled to get some cash out of the machine. She was trembling a little and looking frazzled, so I took over the operation. Mom got her money, but I think she was a little embarrassed that her daughter witnessed the ATM getting the better of her.

At the time, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was. After all, it was just an ATM. But this machine was really more than that to my mom—it represented a new generation, the first in a long line of things—computers, phone trees, and digital cameras, that she just didn’t get. And she never really would.

Part of the reason for her reaction to the ATM is that she came from a more face-to-face generation, a generation that counted friends by the number of people who lived in town. Books were something you read from page 1 to page 300, in order. She could not have imagined a community made up of people around the world, who were friends but had often never even met. She could not have imagined the world wide web which reads from page 42 of the book, to track F of a compact disk, to section 4:30:09 of a video clip.

Unlike my mom, I operate under what Alvin Toffler called “accelerative thrust” in his book Future Shock. He writes that changes are not just happening faster, but happening faster at an accelerated rate. Unlike our parents who said things like “What WILL they come up with next?” We are more likely to say “Really? Digital cameras? Where can I get one?” It’s not just being younger and wanting the newest, coolest thing, it is a functional change in seeing technology as an integral part of our lives, not something separate and foisted upon us.

Despite all the talk about “Plug and Play,” most technology requires a commitment—in time, money, and brain power. We computer geeks all have friends who bought a computer and never used it, or maybe used it and had lots of problems and ended up calling us for help. Unfortunately, people often buy home computers for the wrong reasons, like not wanting to miss the e-mail bandwagon. The kind of people most likely to integrate a computer into their life are the ones who write, crunch numbers, and play computer games in their spare time. The people who are more likely to go skiing, bake a souffle, or share a beer with friends, are more likely to use that computer as a paper weight.

The other problem is that computers, like relationships, often require a long-term commitment. For a novice, the learning curve is often mountainous. My sister (one of the pre-technology generation) compares it to getting a dishwasher for her eighty year-old house. First she had to get a dedicated circuit installed. Then she had to get a licensed electrician to upgrade the existing wiring from sixty to one hundred amps. Then she had to get public service to install new wiring from the pole to the house. My sister says that this dishwasher didn’t help her life any, it just complicated things. Not to mention that she could have avoided the whole thing by just washing her dishes in the sink.

Some of you will agree with my sister that dishwashers, and sometimes technology, are often more trouble than they are worth. But sometimes, maybe one day when a bunch of guests have come by, or on a Sunday when the moths are nesting in your wallet, that dishwasher and ATM will be welcome friends. It’s those kind of days when my sister and I can huddle up by the computer, share a piece of souffle, and have some fun.

Cybèle (pronounced C-Bell) lives in Hinesburg with her two spoiled cats, Boca and Program. Thoughts and comments are welcome at CybeleW@aol.com.

Cover     Archive     Editorial mission     Information for advertisers     Links     Directory     Calendar     Submission guidelines    

Suggestions? Send us email