When Technology Turns Beastly

I must admit that I love my laptop. I love the ease with which it allows me to scroll letters across the screen. My heart double-pumps when I hit “Tools” and the thesaurus automatically provides me with word choice options. While I sometimes detest auto-correct, like when my “right” word or self-created word vanishes into other letters and meanings, at other times it serves as a magnificent utensil for accelerating the speed of my work. The red squiggly line and spell check offer tremendous advantages, too.

Then there is the Internet. A few words and a click or two send forth mountains of information to increase knowledge and understanding. Although I must continue with caution, checking sources before announcing new information that may actually be lies and slander, it provides me with sites brimming with tidbits I need to know. There are places that teach, guide, explain, define, outline, connect, and so much more. I can create chocolate mousse as light as a cloud. I can learn to skin a rabbit (yikes!). I am able to buy, sell, trade, barter, or offer for free just about any item on earth.

I can preview movies, watch videos, laugh at clips, and explore the world while never leaving the comforts of my cozy office chair. My computer can retrace my steps so that I can retrieve a site. It can save, delete, recover, and more. Above all it is fast. No more must a search an encyclopedia, phone a friend, or head for the library. A couple of taps and VOILA! Information is instantly delivered.

And so, what is lost in the process. To begin with, most kids today do not even recognize an encyclopedia, let alone the store of knowledge held within. Even though these tomes are outdated before they are printed, they were always a fun source for research or just for reading about every imaginable topic. Instead of phoning a friend, I can email or text, go to Facebook or use Insta-gram. No need for a call and a visit, just get the information with the speed of lightening – or at least the speed of the computer at hand. The library, a hallowed hall of literature and learning, struggles to keep books in circulation and keep librarians in employment when downloads are easy and affordable. Our local library has kept up with wonderful technology and trained professionals are ready to guide and explain. Its daily usage and clientele have dwindled as technology outlets and sources have soared but it remains an awesome resource.

When I talk to a friend, acquaintance, or authority figure in person, I read gestures, study facial expressions, follow eye wanderings, and reflect on body movement. Tones change, words flow freely or sounds become stuffed with caution. Not only can I hear the words, I can listen for so much that lies behind the intonation and lilt. I learn just as much from scrutinizing as I do from the actual message. This allows for time to think and rethink, formulate ideas, and ask questions as well as state my own opinion. It may require more time and effort to meet face-to-face, but many misunderstandings and miscommunications can be avoided as a result.

With technology I can circumvent the eye-to-eye situation by simply preparing and sending an email or text. Actually preparing is not truly accurate as I put far less thought and reflection into an email than I do a meeting. Sending messages instantly saves time and energy but there are inherent costs to consider. First, all of the visualizing described in the paragraph above disappears. No more faces and feet to observe and help with drawing conclusions. Instead there are just letters and words dashing hastily onto my screen. I read and interpret as suits my state-of-mind at the moment. No background information or personal examination is available. I read and act, sometimes with due thought and care but often with instantaneous remarks. I mean well, but I never know how the recipient is going to interpret or recognize my true intent.

With technological communication stretching the truth to suit my needs is simple. Saying what I feel without thinking is effortless. Lying on a laptop is easy. Posting false or inflammatory accusations is uncomplicated. Fury that burns the keyboard erupts just as it creates multiple, domino-effect eruptions. Tip-tap-send and word spreads like fire. And so while I love the simplicity and relatively painless use of my laptop, I acknowledge the dangers. Kids send messages and photos that damage and cause never-ending harm. Angry lovers rip open irreparable wounds. Nasty words ravage and destroy.

And so proceed with attention, care, and restraint. The best of intentions, the most tender remarks can transform into venomous vipers that strike and obliterate any initial goodness. Well-meant messages may be translated into a tangle of evil. Say what you mean; mean what you say. And whenever possible do it in person. When the personal touch is impossible or impractical proceed with due care. The less said, perhaps, is the safest and wisest method of communication.