A couple of months ago I purchased a “smart” phone, a good friend of mine told me only smart people had “smart” phones. I am not so sure. Like a kid in a candy store I downloaded all kinds of games and apps. I fooled myself into thinking it was strictly a business decision. Now I can get those critical e-mails, texts and phone calls anywhere (all five spots on our farm that get cellular reception).
I quickly loaded all kinds of great Ag related apps. I now get the commodity prices with one app, can find out what soil type a certain field is with another and calculate the expected calving date with yet another. Of course, Dad reminded me that WIBW has the commodity prices each half hour, but the most crushing blow came when I went to use the expected calving date app. He calculated (accurately) the calving date of a cow in his head faster than my so called “smart” phone.
I often made fun of my friends because they talked about how they couldn’t live without their devices. Sadly after one week, I was just as addicted as anyone else. A couple of mornings ago, I watched a piece on the morning news comparing addiction to “smart” phones with drug addiction. I have to agree.
Oh, they do have their benefits. Often it is easier to stay ahead of the mounting piles of e-mail because I do get them instantly. It has also taken my Ag advocacy to a new level and I am able to share my experiences on the ranch with my non-ag friends in real time. However, even these benefits come some unintended side-effects.
One morning, Dad and I were waiting on a heifer to calve. While we sat in the pick-up and watched, I posted to my Facebook page. Dad noticed my furious typing (with two fingers) and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was advocating for Ag and telling the world about what we do. I think I received the same look he gave me when I was in the fourth grade and told him I was going to play third base for the Royals. Really Dad, I am promoting agriculture.
Then a couple of days later we were making the evening rounds and I got several e-mails. Each time I get an e-mail, my phone chimes. After the fifth chime he asked me just how busy I was. Before I could answer, the phone chimed again. Question answered, much too busy, not necessarily productive, but much too busy.
This technology at our fingertips has eroded our attention span and drained our concentration. We need everything instantly and quickly. Our society has come to reflect this sensory overload. After all, we all have two dozen or more TV channels. If you don’t like a program, there are many more choices. Shows must be fast moving and exciting to hold our interest, no longer can they take time to develop a plot. If you find nothing on the TV there is always the internet.
Even our political races reflect this lack of attention span. Politicians must talk in sound bites no longer than one or two lines or we won’t listen. If they aren’t easy to listen to and capture our fancy, we move on to the next candidate. Abe Lincoln would have had a tough time making it in the 2012 Presidential race.
What’s the answer? I am not sure there is one; I have never seen technology decrease or the pace of life slow down. Over my adult life I have went from no cell phone, to a bag phone, to a hand held phone and finally (for now) to a “smart” phone. I have gone from no computer, to a desk top to a lap top. No internet at work to wireless access in my home. Technology and the speed it brings is here to stay and it will only increase.
However, I do have a couple of absolutes when it comes to technology. For one, I absolutely refuse to take my phone into church. Before Church each Sunday I take it out of my pocket and place it in the console of the pickup. I will live without it for those three hours each week. I also refuse to place it on the night stand next to my bed. Each night I want to recharge and my phone should too.
I don’t know much, but I do know this problem of too much information too quickly will only get worse in the years to come. My only hope is that at some point we will realize that we need to unplug, disconnect and push it all away. As a society we need to relearn the art of discussion, the joy of not being connected and the ability to concentrate. But then again, I am sure there is an app for that.