This week Ariana Huffington, she of great money and with a vast media empire, declared that we are too reliant on technology, with smartphones ‘blocking our path to wisdom’.
In a post for the Guardian, a national newspaper in the UK, she adds that ‘ours is a generation bloated with information and starved of wisdom’.
I find myself agreeing, although part of me also wonders how wise she is to make this argument. Isn’t her whole business founded on pedalling a hell of a lot of trivial information on whatever device people will devour it?
A short trawl of Huffington Post on any given day will confirm that the large majority of stuff on there won’t be making you very wise at all, but will actually make you despair at the utter shallowness of humanity.
However, I readily believe that people are increasingly fixated on screens – cell phone screens, TV screens, computer screens. I’m not immune to this evolution. In the evenings I find myself watching the television with a computer on my lap.
If I look over at the English Husband, he’s inevitably contemplating his next move on Scrabble via his iPhone.
On my daily commute today, there were no fewer than four people standing or sitting right next to me, all plugged into devices and staring at screens.
But I have caved in, as I always do, and have finally joined the ranks of people with a smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 is the newest thing in my life this year.
I resisted this push towards a bright, beeping phone bursting with information for a long time. I thought I was doing fine with my little Nokia that made texts and phone calls. It was starting to feel almost quaint.
But the relentless march of technology means that if I don’t get a smartphone eventually, I will feel like I’ve been left behind. And I happen to work in an industry (guess which one), where I’m positively an ancient, grumpy dinosaur because I refuse to join Facebook and have an aversion to social media.
My new smartphone, I don’t mind admitting, baffles me. Oh, it has lots of pretty pictures and, so I’ve been assured, does lots of remarkable things, but I can’t figure out half of them. The English Husband tells me that I will get used to it. Part of me resists this, though.
I don’t want to rely on it too much. I don’t want the phone to be an extension of my arm. I don’t want to learn that I can’t get out the door without first consulting with it. I don’t want to find that I check the phone before I brush my teeth.
This is not the person I want to become – but I also know that constant communication is addictive.
When I hear the beep of a new message, I have an overwhelming urge to check who it is from. I just can’t help myself. If I leave the phone on silent I worry that I might miss a message about one of my children.
I can’t seem to win.
I do occasionally hark back to the era before the mobile phone. For me, I only need to go as far back as 2006.
Because I held out for so long and clung to ancient technology, I had to arrange to meet people at a designated place and time and be prompt. Imagine that.
But when BT phone boxes started disappearing off the street and appeared instead on a revamped version of Doctor Who, I got my first cell phone.
My life feels no richer for it, but it is more convenient. This seems to encapsulate modern life: convenient but crowded with stuff.
I can, however, now take a picture and send it to my family in the United States in only a minute – and I guess that’s something to celebrate.