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Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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March 31st, 2011

Technology, Ten Things I Hate About You

 
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hateaboutyou-flashWhen it comes to loving technology the difference between Brandon and I is staggering.  Brandon loves it and, if not married to me, would have all things iThings.  On the other hand, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to use less of it just to prove Brandon wrong.  To be fair, Brandon has helped me (begrudgingly) understand how valuable technology can be.  It’s a tool and like any tool can be extremely useful, but can also be abused.  Seeing so many people using technology inappropriately has led me to create this list…

Ten Things That Drive Me Crazy About Technology:

10) It makes things that are not HD, 3D, or wide screen “boring”.  (On Christmas Day we were all watching the Muppet’s Christmas Carol – one of our family traditions.  After the opening credits my dad had already pulled out his iPad to watch YouTube videos, my mom was returning text messages on her iPhone, and Brandon was playing Monopoly with his iPod Touch.)

9) It has come without an instruction manual as to how to use it in a mannerly way.  (Very few people have a true sense of cell phone etiquette.  We all know this because we’ve all been stuck behind people at restaurants, stores, or doctor’s offices answering their phones in the middle of paying, checking out, or talking to the nurse.)

8) It has forced us to learn how to do a million things at once because it can do a million things at once.  (These gadgets that are supposed to help us multitask often just make us feel like we’re wasting time if we’re not doing 10 things at once.  We can’t just watch TV anymore, we have to be checking Facebook, updating our Amazon wish lists, responding to Evites and watching the latest The Office dance.)

7) It has led to having lunches with friends who immediately answer their phones and return text messages all throughout the meal even if they are in the middle of a sentence.

6) It has resulted in 60% of people already texting or in the process of taking out their phones as they exit the church doors after Mass.

5) It has turned my Olivia into a little version of Brandon.  (Whenever she sees her grandmother, she immediately begins rummaging through her purse to play with her iPhone which she already knows how to unlock, find pictures of herself, and scroll through.)

4) It has made Googling any question we have a knee-jerk reaction.  (When I’m discussing something with Brandon and a question comes up that we don’t know the answer to, he immediately has 8 tabs open trying to find the answer.  Sometimes we do need an answer quickly, like what time does the party start. But sometimes it’s just not that important to know Chris Farley was on SNL between 1990-1995.  Knowledge is great but I don’t think we need a constant stream of it 24/7.  There are some facts we just don’t need to know right away, if ever.)

3) It has decreased the amount of news I learn about my family over the phone.  (I learn about my cousins’ engagements or marriages by reading it on my Facebook newsfeed.  It’s amazing the number of times this has happened.)

2) It has created the Chevrolet Cruze with an OnStar application that will read your Facebook newsfeed to you while you are driving.

1) It can be unbelievably dangerous and destructive for kids.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m on Facebook, I have a cell phone, I send text messages, and I have a pretty expansive list of blogs that I read regularly so I don’t want to give the impression that I lead a sort of Amish way of life.  I just think these personal electronic devices have advanced so quickly that we have not had a chance to catch up.  We have not gotten a chance to really consider how “being connected” all the time can affect us and those around us.

Companies are constantly trying to outdo each other – we go from 2G to 3G to 4G.  This phone can take pictures.  This phone can take clearer pictures.  This phone can take clearer pictures and panoramic pictures.  This phone can take clear, panoramic pictures and record a video.  And so on.  As these new things come out, we race to get the latest and greatest.  I think the question needs to be asked:  Why?  Why do I need a 4G phone instead of a 3G?  Why do I need to know that Megan is no longer in a relationship while I’m driving?  Why do I need to be able to access the Internet 24/7?  Why do I need to be able to reach every person I know any second of the day?  Is my life truly better because I have a cell phone that can call, text, search, photo, poke, sing, tweet, update, record, and knit a lovely winter hat?

More than anyone, I think parents are most behind the curve.  This quickly advancing technology is really affecting teenagers because it gives them access to everything at every second of the day.  Parents have not had a chance to realize how dangerous this is in the hands of kids during such formative years.  Now there is sexting, Facebook bullying, bullying through texting, and rampant pornography, to name a few.  Access to all of this, in my opinion, is too tempting for teenagers.  It can be a drug.  When they are apart from their phones they get twitchy, antsy and nervous.  If parents allow their kids to have smartphones, I really believe that parents need to constantly monitor their kids’ text messaging and Internet usage.  Yeah, it might seem a little “Big Brother-ish” but I think it’s completely necessary.  They have to be able to teach their kids what is appropriate and inappropriate.  They have to teach them how important it is to “disconnect” so they can study, sleep, get some fresh air, enjoy dinner with the family, heck, just sit quietly and think about life.  But, if adults are going to teach children the proper use of phones and the Internet, adults need to be able to use it properly as well.

I need to ask myself, do I ever disconnect from the online social networking world?  Am I really missing anything when I am not connected?  Does the cyber world bring me any closer to God?  Do I serve God with any of my actions on my phone or computer?  We have to be honest with ourselves as we answer these questions.  We have to make sure we are in control of these devices and not the other way around.  As brilliant as Steve Jobs is, I don’t want him to be part of every second of every day of my life.  That’s God’s role.

What do you think?  Is this an issue that comes up in your life?  How do you stay in control of the technology in your life?  How do you handle teenagers and technology? At the moment I’m planning on sending my girls to school with a Zach Morris cell phone to avoid any problems.

Ok, thanks for reading.  Now I’m going to post, tweet, text, and email this.

 
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The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and three daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Ryan

    neat article, and nice to see a Christian perspective on this!

    I too feel over-connected at times, sometimes the tech tools feel more like they drive us then the other way around. Currently I’m reading the “Winter of our Disconnect” which is about a mother and her three teenage kids giving up all screens for 6 months, tv/internet/phone/ipad-phone-touch, you name it, no multimedia. The family changes in some very powerful ways, gives me half a mind to try it out. If you’re curious link is here.

  • Laura

    I just blogged about very similar issues – how parents need to model wise use of the Internet and technologies for their children, set boundaries, stay present to their kids, protect them without going overboard, etc. While I know these issues are huge concerns for parents of teenagers, I think it’s just as important for those of us with younger children to consider as well. After all, it’s not going to be Facebook, sexting, or cyber bullying by the time my toddler is in high school – it’ll be something completely new, different & equally frightening. But I can’t stick my kids in a bubble and I want to help them learn to navigate this internet world responsibly because I won’t always be there to look over their shoulder (nor do I want to be!).

  • Lindsey Newhall

    Nice article, and I’m glad you are getting people to think about the overuse of technology. I find it funny that in this post, as well in many other “Technology might be dangerous for our personal lives” posts, you feel the need to include a bit of a disclaimer:

    “Don‚Äôt get me wrong‚ÄîI‚Äôm on Facebook, I have a cell phone, I send text messages, and I have a pretty expansive list of blogs that I read regularly so I don‚Äôt want to give the impression that I lead a sort of Amish way of life. ”

    What would be wrong with leading a “sort of Amish way of life”? Do you think the Amish are suffering because of lack of technology and Facebook news feeds and cell phones? I’d guess that for the most part, they have a stronger sense of community and purpose than most other Americans. Could part of it be because they have to rely on face-to-face interactions instead of tweets and news feeds and text messages?

    For myself, I have been on Facebook and I have used a cell phone, and obviously I am now on a computer typing this, but last year I deactivated my Facebook account (with the intention of never activating it again), and I keep a cell phone (I won’t even call it MY cell phone) in the glove compartment of my car with NO numbers programmed into it, ostensibly just for emergencies. I spend much of the year working outside the country, and I never bring a cell phone with me when traveling abroad. I still send hand-written letters. I probably overly rely on email, but when you don’t have a permanent address and are traveling abroad for work, it sadly becomes a bit of a necessity. I don’t have an ipad, itouch, iphone, or TV. And since giving up my cell phone and Facebook, I have never been happier. My relationships with my real friends have strengthened, I have found much more time in my day for ANYTHING else, other than fake connections through cyberspace and texting, such as practicing my instrument, studying, exercising, going for walks with friends, spending time with family, writing, etc.

    Unlike the poster of this blog and so many others, I make no apologies for not wanting to “be connected” and indulge my technology obsessions, and I’d be honored if someone likened me to the Amish (though I’m far from it, unfortunately). I believe we are overly reliant on modern computer technology and that will only serve to diminish our intelligence (for example, my friends relying on MapQuest and GPS, getting lost when those lead them astray, and not understanding basic cardinal directions, while I use a Thomas Guide), our patience (I want the answers and the entertainment NOW NOW NOW!), and our community and personal connections. Right now I have a fairly new laptop, but even that provides undue stress for me: when is it going to die? When will I have to throw down another chunk of money to buy a new one? How will I preserve all the photos on it? What if my hard drive crashes? I have it backed up, but what if the external hard drive malfunctions?? Nothing in this world is permanent, and I have to learn to face that fact. I have decided that once this computer does in fact die, I will not buy another one.

    Oh and just in case you think I’m an older technology-shunner from the middle of nowhere, I’m a woman in my late 20s who grew up in Los Angeles. And often times, I wish I had been born Amish!

    Thank you for reading.

  • Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft

    @Susan, this is a good point. If I expect my kids to be detached from their phones, I need to be ok with not being able to contact them every second of the day, like during school and such. If it’s important then I could always get a hold of them through the school office, right?

  • Wendy Stewart

    That was a wonderful article. I also struggle with the good and bad of technology despite my knowledge of the subject and previous job as a computer teacher. As much as I know about technology, I take care to step away and I have no problem separating myself from my phone. Not only that, but I never feel the need to get the latest and greatest gadget. I take the time to see where my time online should be and how it would make the greatest impact and benefit myself and others. Now if only I could get my 15 year old sister to detach herself from her iPod, then things will be good!

  • Susan

    We live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. Many people do not touch technology (computers, phones, Wii, etc.) from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. We are trying to adopt the same practice just to get a break from it. You don’t realize how addicted you are until you try! I have all the more admiration for the practice now that we’ve tried it. It’s hard, but there is one whole day that is not only devoted to God, but also to friends, family & community. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up driving and cooking appliances for a day, though!

    As for teens, sometimes parents can be as much of a problem as the kids. They demand to be connected to their teens through phones and texts all the time. If they can’t reach their kids for 5 minutes, they freak out. How are the kids supposed to learn the skills they need to be on their own?

    At my daughter’s middle school, students are not supposed to have cell phones on or in sight during the school day. Parents interupt CLASS to call their kids about mundane things like dentist, walking the dog, etc. Can’t it wait until the final bell rings?

  • Craig

    Mostly true, particularly with cell phones and texting taking people offline from the real world. One redeeming item for me are podcasts, which have enhanced my Christian practice. “Pray-As-You-Go” has greatly enhanced my prayer life, for example.

  • Christine

    This is the story of my life.. only the names have been changed to protect the innocent!

  • sue

    My husband says I am too connected. I agree. I gave up Facebook games for Lent, just to see how my life changed. I filled it with other online things to do, though did cut time in 1/2 online for the most part.

    I have a new smartphone and get nagged about playing games on it during dinner outings and while shopping in stores I don’t care for.

    It is a problem for me, and I know I have to do something to curb it.

    I do however have tons of Catholic and Christian Friends on Facebook, and read a lot more bible passages and get into more faith conversations that before I ever joined Facebook. That’s a plus for me.

  • Daniel

    Interesting article. Thanks for the reminder about technology and how much we really do reply on technology everyday, and minute of our lives. I’m going to take some time to reflect on how I use the technology that I use.

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