October 2003

Technology addiction ruining our lives

By Suzanne Strazza

My computer is down – possibly for good. I am writing this on my neighbor’s computer since I have forgotten how to use a pen and paper. Actually, a pencil would be more appropriate for editing, but without owning an electric pencil sharpener, what would I do if the point broke? Whiteout would be another option if that great smell didn't distract me. So, being completely unable to function without technology, I’ve had to break into my friend’s house.

I am ashamed to admit that I have become so dependent on this machine. How many hours have I wasted stressing out about it not working and then going to the library or a friend’s to check my e-mail? Have I forgotten how to dial the phone too? Or for that matter, how about talking to someone face to face? I have actually recently been emailing someone who lives seven blocks away.

When I do get on the telephone, I’m an even bigger disgrace. My friend Kate and I have been known to sit on our respective front porches, directly across the street from each other, making observations into the receiver such as, “Oh, your new haircut looks great.” These conversations are usually in stereo due to the sound traveling as well across the street as it does over the airwaves.

What has become of the ability to function on a human level? What would we do without so much high-tech equipment? And what makes even the best of us eventually get sucked in?

Besides being a basket case, I am a Doula, a childbirth assistant. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the most incredible birth.

As labor began, Mamma was very aware of all that was around her — the monitors, the TV, the bells and whistles. The numbers on the baby monitor became such a focus that we all relied on them to tell us that she was having contractions instead of just asking her.

Suddenly, Mamma connected to something primal within herself – she became a mother wolf, who retreats to her den in solitude to have her pups. She knew exactly what her body needed and wanted her to do and when — relying on instinct rather than the machines to tell her what was happening.

There was no E.R. drama, no screaming, no homicidal threats towards her husband. It was extremely peaceful. The baby slid into this world without a fuss. It was mesmerizing. It was a sharp reminder that sometimes technology can get in the way of being human.

I certainly realize that there is a time and a place for modern technology, but I do see it being abused in all areas of our lives. Our dependence on devices has become ridiculous in many ways. My 6-year-old son will be learning how to use a computer this year in kindergarten, beginning his inability to use a pen and paper at an early age.

I did just fine without a computer all the way through college! I actually hand-wrote most of my papers and even got a few A’s! Well, one A.

What are we doing to ourselves? Look at all those people back East whose power went out; their suffering must have been unbearable. I’ve chosen to live somewhere far away from big cities and hip scenes to reduce the chances of getting caught up in the mainstream. I want to go to the market without someone on the other end of my cell phone coaching me through.

I want to raise my children with a belief in the values of not only simplicity, but certain basic skills; reading, long division, sharpening a pencil with a pocket knife, the lost art of letter-writing, physical labor, the importance of visiting, the value of face-to-face conversation, and doing things for yourself.

How can I teach them these things, if I, myself, am losing sight of them? How can my children trust their own instincts when they are constantly being shown that it is so much easier not to? Weren’t we born with instinct for a reason?

After this birth, a part of me wants to sell my house and move into a small cabin, off the grid, haul water, grow our own food, and heat with wood (or sagebrush as the case may be). I want to toss my computer, phone, cell phone, CD player – all of it. I want to return to basics and prove to my children, the world and myself that it is still possible to get through the day without it all.

Unfortunately, there’s another part of me that breaks out in a cold sweat at the idea. I have done it before, this simple cabin life, yet it seems like this dependency on technology has slowly seeped into my life over the years since, permeating my daily existence until it’s as much a part of my life as eating and breathing.

I ask, if we can do something as difficult as having a baby without machines, then why can’t I even talk to my neighbor without one?

Suzanne Strazza is a writer and mother living in Mancos.