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Never been old: Do devices make life better?

by Kathryn Mora

Today, as I walk through town, I notice people spending lots of time caressing their devices. They give more attention to their cell phones, tablets, and laptops than the person sitting across from them. I see mothers walking down the street transfixed on their cell phones rather than the child they’re pushing in the stroller. A man’s sweet dog walking in front of him is getting less attention than his phone. Too many kids play video games on their tablets rather than playing outside digging in the mud and climbing trees.

I read an article written in 2012 by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, entitled, “Is technology killing the human touch?” They found that “the brain chemicals of people who habitually used the internet (and were perhaps addicted to it) had abnormal connections between the nerve fibers in their brain…” They also feel this impacts their communications, relationships and day-to-day interactions with people.

Experiencing nature is important to me and began as a little girl. My brother and I spent every waking moment outdoors creating adventures, exploring nature and using our imagination. We had no devices like a television, computer or cell phone in our young lives. Our devices were hammers, shovels, and rakes. If we’d had access to screens would that have kept us away from our adventures? I’d like to think not.

Wherever we lived when we crossed America, we were in exploration mode. In Carson City, Nevada we walked to the Brown Hills near our house to find out if a rattlesnake rattle sounded like a baby’s rattle. It does. We loved to check everything out firsthand. Good thing since there were no search engines in the late ‘40s.

I still love nature. Often I leave my cell phone turned off when I walk to the library, farmer’s market, The Claremont Colleges or other places in town. I’m a free spirit and don’t like to be tethered to anything. I love the freedom to see and smell the flowers and talk to parents with young kids, people I pass by in town and interact with dog owners and their pooches. If I left my cell phone on I’d constantly be listening for the chime of a call, message or social media. I want to be in the moment wherever I am. However, there are times when I miss something important to me like when my son and his family were unexpectedly in my area and called to see if they could drop by. That day I was getting away from the chaos in the world and didn’t have my cell phone with me. I regret not seeing my family. Now I always bring my phone and on the weekends I have it on.

Last week without warning I found myself totally tethered to my cell phone most of the day waiting to speak to the right person about an ultra-important matter. While still shackled to my phone, transferred to way too many people, and placed on extended holds, I decided to multitask while waiting. I cleaned my refrigerator and washed the sink full of dishes and other things I knew I should do but kept putting off. It was a great use of time and a positive way to keep my blood pressure down as I waited.

A few hours later still on the same call, a representative finally transferred me to the right person. I was thrilled for a moment until I heard the recording and placed on yet another hold. I wondered how much longer I’d be attached to my device. Not knowing, I decided to do what any sane person would do. I walked to the supermarket a mile and a half away to do my weekly food shopping. Still tethered to my phone, I made my selections, stood in the long line, paid for my groceries and headed home. When I was almost home, the right person answered my call. I shared I’d waited on hold for almost 3 miles. She was surprised to hear it described in miles rather than time. By the time I reached home, my ultra-important matter was resolved! Magic! Well maybe not, but I did have a sense of relief and felt good I was able to multitask in the process.

Shackled to a cell phone all day long to talk to the right person and ending up with a positive outcome reinforced my belief that devices do make my life better as long as I create a daily balance. With the ease of using my computer to write this column, I have evolved from using paper and pen in my early writing. Despite having celebrated many sunrises and sunsets, I didn’t begin writing my compositions by carving crude hieroglyphics on clay tablets or cave walls.

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