The question ‘Are our tools controlling us?’ was a sentence near the end of a recent sermon. And no, the sermon was not about our modern ‘tools.’
All those useful appliances and ‘helps’ that make our lives so much easier than our ancestors, who hand-washed clothes; cooked on solid fuel cookers; and hand-sewed their garments and household linen.
Often what happened in a different part of the world was never known. Now we have ‘tools’ to give us instant updates.
Spanning the generations
When I was young, which was a long time ago, my family home had a radio. It needed something called accumulators – I remember my mother going into the hardware shop and I think she handed in one, and paid for a new one.
(From memory, it looked something like this, and I think my mother said she had to carry it because it had acid in it.)
Time went on and we had an electric radio… and eventually transistor radios.
I do not remember being controlled by the radio, or addicted to programs on it.
Next, came television
I do not remember being ‘glued’ to it either. In those days we talked as a family and ate together without distraction around the meal table.
We did not even have a phone. There was no need for one.
When my aunt and her family were coming to visit us, she sent a letter and traveled by bus on the day she had told us she would arrive.
When we went to visit them, my brother and I made our own fun. We played with our cousins.
Sometimes when exploring we ended up in trouble. Or one of us did… often, me.
One time, when crossing the weir with my cousins, I slipped and fell into the water.
Going back to my aunt’s house and facing her and my mother was no ‘fun.’
Then came telephones.
They were not a priority or a necessity in my community, we met each other in the street; when shopping,and sometimes by arrangement.
Eventually, after my marriage and moving to my husband’s city of work, a telephone became useful.
Notice, I said ‘useful’ not a necessity.
In fact, sometimes when it rang it filled me with fear.
What bad news was it bringing.
In the early days people did not use it to ‘chat’ – at least not in my home country.
Perhaps in having a glimpse of life from my childhood until now, you can see that technology gradually found a place in our lives. However, it did not exert control.
I remember – ‘in the olden days’ if watching a film (black and white movie on our black and white TV) if the phone rang, it was a nuisance.
Now, I see people addicted...
to ‘mobile’ or ‘cell’ phones.
The ‘ring’ or ‘ping’ of a call or a message demands a response. I have seen a woman walk off the pavement and onto the road totally absorbed in ‘texting’ and not on the car driving toward her.
And, in case it seems sexist to single out a woman I saw, I have seen men totally oblivious to their surroundings because of this little ‘pocket’ autocrat.
I am not against technology. As an author I appreciate my computer, the Internet and the many help research tools, as well as the benefits of email and so on. However, I am honest enough to admit that at times I am ruled by it.
My overwhelming concern though, is the power these little pocket autocrats have over their users.
Is a case of ‘the servant has become the master?’
This is entirely our choice. Which of us will rule?