human technology

Technology is here to stay.  But that doesn’t mean it has to be a takeover.

For all my reminiscing about “the way it was,” I really do enjoy modern technology.

When I was in high school, my girlfriend lived about 45 minutes away.  The very best phone plans allowed free dialing within about a 20-mile radius.  The rest – was long distance.  So my phone bills wound up being between $300 and $400 every month.  Today’s cell phone plans are truly incredible by comparison.

I’m a musician, songwriter and all-around music lover.  My 160GB iPod can hold more music than I have in my entire collection, which is substantial.  Before my stepfather left for another tour in Iraq last month, I loaded nearly 200 full-length movies, an entire 4 seasons of a television show and hundreds of CDs onto his iPod.  It had plenty of space remaining.

I’m still amazed that I can stay in contact with so many people so readily through the Internet.

Even this blog is possible because of technology.  So don’t think that I villainized it.

The problem comes when machines run us, rather than our running the machines.  And, of course, machines have no power to entice or control us beyond what we give them.  We are, after all, still the humans.

In several previous posts, I’ve suggested taking steps toward converting some of our tech time into creative ventures, human interactions and constructive reflection.  But technology also opens to us unprecedented opportunities to actually be more human.

Of the high volume of texts I send in an average day, only about 10% of them relay information, such as being a few minutes late for an appointment, or confirming a dinner plan.  Another 10 – 20% are taken up with sheer silliness.  Chad will sometimes text me the entire alphabet — one letter at a time.  Even then somehow, between the growling and trying to delete them as fast as they arrive so that they don’t use up my data space, I feel connected and loved.  But 70 – 80% of the texts I send in a day are intentionally sent to encourage, support and appreciate people.

“Hi!  Thinking of u.  Hope ur day is off 2 a great start!”

“I was just thinking about u and how much I enjoy my life with u in it.  Let’s get 2gether again soon.”

“Just thinking about ur Spanish test today.  U studied hard.  I know u will do well!”

“My blog post was inspired by u 2day.  U DO seem to do that a lot  🙂 .”

I can send out a text like this  in … hold on let me check …

…yup, 10 seconds.

That means that, in one spare minute of my day, I can send out 5 or 6 positive messages that might change someone’s day for the better.  Do the math.  That means that in just five minutes, I can manage 25 or 30.  I’d say that’s a fantastic use of time!

The same holds true for emails.  Facebook posts and messages.  IMs.  In the few minutes surrounding checking my own email or Wall, I can let dozens of people know that I think of them, love them, miss them, appreciate them, value them, route for them.  That’s certainly using technology to keep the human element in things.  Just the other day, my brother in North Carolina left a message on my Facebook Wall:  “Have a great day, brother.”  Five words.  But I smiled and was moved that he’d thought of me.

And I did have a great day.

Here are a few more examples of  “human technology”:

Do some job searching for an out-of-work friend and send links to the leads you find.

Edit meaningful photos for friends and family.  I do this often.  Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll even do a fantasy photo edit of a friend or teen and send it to them.  It’s exciting for them, but it also conveys that I’ve thought about them and was willing to spend time on something special for them.

Send a personal link to an inspiring video, along with a note about why the video made you think of this person.

Teach a friend or family member how to better use their documentation, music or photo software; or how to better use a social network site.

As with most things, if you apply a little creativity to the underlying belief that people matter most, you’ll find that there are countless ways to use technology to connect with others, rather than to disconnect from them.

And for those who still don’t know what “copy and paste” means, or the difference between “upload” and “download” — you’ve got that much more time for those hand-written cards and letters!

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