We have all heard the expression “The world is moving a lot faster than it used to.” In some sense, of course, that’s ridiculous. The world is physically moving at the same rate it always has; or if it is indeed faster for whatever physical reasons, the effect is probably imperceptible to us mere mortals.
On the other hand, we have so much more technology available to us today; we can go more places, do more things, and we have more data thrown at us than ever before. Maybe the world is not moving faster, but it sure feels as though it is.
We didn’t have email when I was growing up. In fact, even as a computer science major in college in the early 1980’s, I never saw email until my first job out of school in 1984. I sent hand written letters to people, and I received hand written letters from people. In fact, twenty-five years later, taking the time to write a nice hand written letter seems like such a luxury.
We have cell phones so that we can call people from wherever to wherever, whenever we want. Phone calls are a whole lot cheaper than they used to be. When I was growing up, it was a big deal to gather around the phone and talk to the grandparents. In fact, my parents would often make reel-to-reel tapes featuring “the grandkids” and stories about things going on in our lives, and they would send the tapes to the grandparents. The grandparents would record greetings and messages and send them back. We would gather around the tape player and listen and talk and have a great time as a family.
We have digital cameras that can take photos and instantly send them to whomever we select or we can upload them to the Internet for all to see. We can even make digital movies, put them on YouTube, and instantly they’re available to everybody.
If you had asked anybody in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s whether this modern technology would draw families closer, whether it would make people happier, and whether it would enrich our lives, I’m guessing that the majority of people would have replied with a resounding yes to all those questions.
But in some sense, it feels as though the proliferation of technology has marginalized the value of the communication that we used to so highly treasure. I’m not sure that I can put my finger on it, but receiving an email doesn’t carry the same thrill that getting a paper letter in the mailbox brings; taking more beautiful pictures than ever and posting them on one of the photography websites just doesn’t bring quite the same delight that receiving that packet of photographs from the film developer used to bring; and talking on the phone has become so commonplace that it almost seems as though we call less because it’s not as special to us as it used to be.
I don’t know if anybody else is experiencing these thoughts or if it is something only I perceive, but I suspect it is widespread. The growing discontent isn’t just inside of me, it’s everywhere.
Maybe that’s the issue. Maybe that’s exactly it.
We are a society who always wants more. We need more money, we need more things, we need more security, we need a better position at work, and we need more love. We’re never content with what we have, but we want more.
This would be a perfect segue into several possible Christian themes, but I’ll save that for another article. The point is that we are a people who are not satisfied. In some sense, that drives progress. We always want to do better, improve things more, raise the bar in any field we can imagine.
The sad thing, though, is that we’re sacrificing family and relationships.
Right now we’re at a place where we could leverage our technology in written communication, in oral communication, and in visual / photographic communication, and bring families closer together than ever before.
But again, now that it’s so easy to write an email; now that it’s so easy and affordable to call; and now that it’s so easy to take beautiful photographs and send them to those we love, we’re doing all those things less than we used to.
I am not necessarily talking about you. Perhaps you are the exception. But it seems that society in general is less happy, less fulfilled than we used to be.
We’re complaining that life is moving too fast, and yet everything we’re doing is only making it go faster.
How long can we keep up the frenetic pace? Where will this shifting of lifestyles flatten out? Or will our society actually “revert” (which may not be a bad thing) and slow down as we go back to enjoying quality time together?
I don’t know. It’s something to think about, though.
If you have email, write some letters to those people to whom you would have written a paper letter back in “the old days.”
If you have relatively cheap phone access, take the time to make those phone calls.
If you have a digital camera, look into things you can do with your photographs. Shutterfly has a nifty feature that allows you to make very nice albums with your photographs. I’m sure other sites have something relatively similar. I’ve used Shutterfly’s capabilities numerous times and have been absolutely delighted with the results.
Whatever you do and however you do it, stop and take the time for each other. If we don’t leverage our technological advances to help improve things on a social level, then what’s the point?