Technology makes it easy to work from home. In fact, with barely any effort, I can avoid leaving home at all, for work or anything else. I can interface virtually, shop online, digitally connect, living and working in near isolation. But like a meal that satisfies my hunger but not my soul, leaving me longing for something I can’t define, sometimes technology just isn’t enough.
It fulfills our needs and gets jobs done. Yet it doesn’t always create a sense of satisfaction. It’s one thing to successfully manipulate a digital image, another to bring film to life in stillness of a darkroom. One feels like an accomplishment, one feels like a chore.
Technology, at its best, is a means to an end.
But too often, it seems, we view it as an end in itself. Rather than use it to expand our horizons, we use it to limit them.
It becomes the piece of paper we held in front of our face when we read our essay to the class in third grade. We hide behind it, isolating ourselves from friends and family. We rationalize we’re connecting when we send an instant message. Technology becomes a leash rather than a lasso, tethering us rather than helping us to expand our world.
We depend on it, but resent it, especially when it fails. At least I do, especially on days when multiple devices go out in rapid succession…a conversation on a cell phone abruptly ends, the computer screen freezes repeatedly, an electronic key fails to open a car door.
All three of those things happened on a single day recently, leaving me frustrated and unsettled. I expect technology to keep me efficient and on schedule. But subconscously, I suspect, I also expect it to make me happy.
Enroute to a meeting, on the day one device after another failed, I stopped for an apple. A man stacking fruit near the front of the market was singing as he worked, loudly and off-key. I had to ask him the obvious. “Why are you in such a good mood?” He answered without hesitation.
“It’s a beautiful day. I have a wonderful family and good friends. I’m happy to be alive.”
Maybe if we put down our cell phones, disconnected our iPods, walked away from the computers–and used the time we save with technology to reconnect with friends and family–we’d be happy, too.