Recently I have been been able to reconnect with some old friends through a variety of networking websites. It has been great to overcome the obstacles of time, geography and name changes to catch up with classmates I have not seen or spoken to in 20 years. (Is that a gray hair I feel?) The internet and all its resultant tools - instant messaging, blogs, online photo albums and networking sites - allow us to live almost without boundaries. One of my closest friends lives in England. I have not seen her in years, but our relationship has blossomed over the years since we graduated from college I have been blessed by how we have been able to support each other through difficult times and really stay engaged in each other's life - in large part, thanks to the internet.
GPS units now make it possible that you're never a stranger in any town. Smart phones now put emails, websites and turn-by-turn directions in the palm of your hand, no matter where you are. Digital video recorders that didn't exist a few years ago, have almost replaced the stove as the most important appliance in the home - especially since Grey's Anatomy moved to Thursday nights. The ubiquitous white cords of iPods no longer cause a pause or garner curious glances. Work never stops with laptops and wi-fi available everywhere, from the airport to the corner tire shop. Kids stave off boredom with handheld games that go with them anywhere and everywhere. And the Wii has saved us from having to actually go outside to play golf or tennis.
As a recovering Blackberry addict (Crackberry as my best friend snidely refers to it), I am wistfully aware of how the instruments can organize one's calendar, increase productivity, expand capabilities, and ultimately make the world a better place. No serious executive or homemaker can afford to be caught without one these days. In my car, I have access to satellite radio's hundreds of stations, a CD player and the standard radio. A lot of choices for my average 30 minute drive.
Through modern technology our lives have become significantly more convenient than it was when we were growing up. (That applies no matter how old you are.) Yet, according to a recent National Public Radio piece, we are not in fact spending more time than our parents and grandparents in leisure or with our families. It seems all the tools of convenience have taken up more time than they have given. There are few lazy days. Even relaxation requires tools, and it is almost impossible to be inaccessible.
Lyming has been replaced with instant messaging and online chat rooms. Laptops, Blackberries and remote access, allow work to follow us home. Handheld games, iPods and cellphones widen our personal space and minimize opportunities for social interaction. DVRs allow us to watch more television. Before cell phones (I know it's hard to remember, but try.), we were inaccessible at school, during travel time, and sometimes even at work. Today, cell phone chatter behind the wheel and DWT have become enough of an issue that some municipalities have legislated against it. Billboards reminding drivers not to text dot the highways. Early reports on last week's deadly train crash in California indicate that one of the trains' engineer may have been texting just before the accident. You have to wonder, what was so important.
My friend and I like to torture ourselves sometimes by listing all the things that were invented since we were born. It is a long list. The one thing they all have in common? Off buttons.