The Spiritual Cost of Gadgets

| 3/15/2010 4:33:32 PM

Tags: Spirituality, gadgets, iPhones, health, Standpoint,

Technology Frustration

The real cost of a new laptop, cell phone, or gadget may not be listed in the fine print of the agreement. Each new gizmo also has a “Malfunction Tax” on people’s time, spiritual health, and wellbeing. Writing for Standpoint, Lionel Shriver describes the hidden cost of the new doohickies, thingamajigs, and inanimate chunks of plastic that invade our lives. She writes:

Each time we buy another gizmo, we're not only committed to hours of tremblingly assembling its delicate snap-together plastic bits, loading its software and learning its often demanding technical protocols, but we're prospectively surrendering yet more hours of aggravation when despite our dutiful decoding of mockingly sparse instructions it fails to function properly. Thus all these dazzling inventions are far more costly than their price tags suggest. Why don't I have a mobile, much less an iPhone or a BlackBerry? While I can afford the mere economic expense of the accessory, I cannot afford the temporal and emotional expense when it doesn't work.

Source: Standpoint 

Image by youngthousands, licensed under Creative Commons.

bill brown
4/24/2011 12:46:31 PM

technology is just a new use for the same old caveman rock. 60s star trek expected teleporters as communications but reality requires us to just use phones (and video) but people now have communications to send gigabytes but really sad they have nothing to say

jim walker
3/20/2010 10:28:23 AM

Hi Friends. I think we are missing the point here...these gadgets were designed to make our lives easier...not to complicate it. Technology today is quite different. It has become our master. When we were learning how to use the telephone, we had to put up with some inconvenience, and bad connections, but it did not consume us. This is especially poignant for me right now...I have spent the last 3 days, almost day and night, reformatting and reinstalling programs, and my karma is suffering! Of course, I must be even more careful, since I am writing you from a remote island community in Nicaragua where we work 6 months a year in a NGO educational program directed at motivated students. We can only do that since we are able to close our office in Vermont and forward telephone calls, and emails to us down here. Clearly it is a double edged sword that cuts both ways.

frank jacob_1
3/20/2010 9:54:38 AM

While I share the author's frsutations we must realize the learning curve is steep whenever you learn something new. We didn't walk in one day nor did we learn to ride a bicycle in one day. We took a few steps or traveled down the driveway only to fall and get up and start again. Through the process we learn, we grow, we become more confident. Technology is no different. Yes it is frustrating but over time one can become proficient. It is more attitude than ability. Today if we get stuck we can ask our kids or the neighbor next door. We don't have to go it alone. In terms of learning there are mini-classes, web based training, books, etc that can make things easier. More cell phone companies are offering training because of the complex nature of their devices. As a minister I find technology spritually freeing. I can learn about other cultures and practices that would take hours of research in a library. If I have a thought in Starbucks for my sermon I can note it in my smart phone or pop open my laptop. I find journaling and prayer writing unbelievable freeing using technology. My ideas now flow faster and easier versus the old pad and pen. Most of my congregation is connected to the internet. Their average age is in their 60's. Almost all have cell phones for safety as well as convenience when the power goes out. Are they tech pros? Hardly. They just use the technology to the best of their ability. In the end that is all that matters.

howard a. doughty_1
3/19/2010 9:01:13 PM

Where is Marshall McLuhan when we need him? Or Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul, George Grant or Neal Postman, for that matter. (I know where Arthur Kroker is, and that helps a little bit.) I am old enough to remember life before television, computers that needed men in white lab coats to monitor the humidity and temperature in the vast rooms that held them and rotary phones with three-digit numbers and an operator to call long distance. In short, I have witnessed the entire electronic communications revolution in "real time." I have learned, in the process, that there's no such thing as "value-free" technology, and the economic value and moral values that are inherent in each innovation have nothing to do with generations or pessimism. They frame, structure and otherwise contextualize not just what we think, but also how we think. They may also be undetectable to anyone who lives entirely in the electronic age. As a pre-boomer who actually knew (slightly) Marshall McLuhan, I only wish that that people could re-read what he had to say ... but, as he predicted, almost no one reads anymore.

tracy o'connell_3
3/19/2010 9:47:59 AM

I think one's generation might affect the view here - I agree with the writer. I went to college to do big-picture thinking (and leaving the typing, and the technology, to support staff) and my day is now filled with mind-numbing frustrations and details I formerly didn't have to deal with, from fixing the copier to defragging the hard drive. I could fill a page with examples of trying to do things online when you need a user-name and every one I try has been used. I use one that starts with "F" and ends in "You" because by that time that's my frame of mind, and it's accepted! Then on to the password, and after putting in one, it comes up saying I need 8 letters and 2 symbols - which it didn't tell me before - and the dozen screens I've filled in have been blanked out and I have to start over. Filling out the account here has been an example of this. Having been raised on high-quality writing and photos from high-quality magazines, I find the 70 or so photos people post of themselves on Facebook, each sloppy, ill-formed and out of focus, not enjoyable, nor are the text-messaged observations. "Bad taco here. Puke." Brilliant, thanks for sharing. I'll look to Consumer Reports for my shopping needs rather than the social media whirl. I'm sure there's plenty of good with these machines, but differing expectations, experiences, and having lived life quite fully and wonderfully for decades before they came along can give them less of a sheen.

stephen kastner_2
3/19/2010 8:25:38 AM

What a depressing view of the world. I see it quite differently. When Stewart Brand spoke of the hard-wiring of Planet Earth as an evolutionary process, I picked up that flag. It was 1968 and back then I had no idea that today I would communicate, access and share a wealth of information previously denied to me or impossible because of my geographic displacement, away from cities and their respective major libraries, theaters universities, etc. and because there were no magic gadgets like my new Google Android. Now I walk through my town, stop and take a photo of something worth sharing, write a comment and post it on-the-spot for my friends to see and relate to. We are thousands of miles apart and yet we are connected, and it just keeps getting better, cheaper, smaller, faster and more fun than being a hermit meditating in a cave.