A Publication of WTVP

Oh, technology. If ever there was a double-edged sword, you’re it.

There’s no stopping it. Few of us could do our jobs, and most of us would have trouble eliminating it from our personal lives. Meanwhile, the lines between the two have blurred, making it harder than ever to set and maintain our own personal boundaries.

Do we control technology, or does it control us? The basis for many science fiction stories, it’s a notion that’s not going away anytime soon. And today, with the ubiquity of mobile, we’re taking our technology with us everywhere we go.

We’re expected to answer messages immediately; it matters little what else we’re doing. That instant connection can be helpful, but it’s more often a distraction. When you’re bombarded by hundreds of emails, texts, status updates and tweets each day, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s easy for important messages to get buried in the avalanche.

Digital communication has indeed made us more productive, but it’s also made us lazy. We’re talking to each other less. We’re hiding behind manufactured identities. We have more “friends” than ever, at least according to Facebook, but our interactions are often superficial. Our smiles have become emoticons.

Privacy is now virtually nonexistent. Technology has offered up a whole new set of dangers, and put powerful tools into the hands of criminals. There’s cyberstalking, cyberbullying and identity theft, not to mention viruses, spam and malware. And if you’ve heard our transportation secretary lately, you know that texting is killing us on the
nation’s highways.

Relationships have been destroyed by the inappropriate use of technology. We do things online that we would never do face to face. It encourages short-term thinking and instant gratification, and it exacerbates mental health issues. No wonder we have trouble focusing. No wonder so many politicians can’t think beyond the next election. No wonder so many business leaders can’t think beyond the next quarter.

Last month, our website was infiltrated by a mysterious assailant located somewhere in Egypt, who started using it to relay spam. It still boggles my mind that this little business in Peoria, Illinois, need worry about hackers in Cairo, but such are the times in which we live.

And yet, these are also times of great collaboration and creativity, enabled by technology. It’s an age in which the iPad is revolutionizing government, retail, healthcare and education. I could go on…but the benefits of technology are well known and obvious.

Like anything, it’s all in how you use it. I wouldn’t give up my own phone, but personally, the best thing I have done was turn off most of my instant notifications. I’m easily reached, but I want to be in control—not the other way around. iBi