I recently watched a few documentaries and parent workshops which got me to thinking. One thing that I have learned throughout the course of my life is that good solutions often have unintended consequences. Just like in children’s song There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly…. As a teacher, I always looked for examples of this to tell my students. There once was a situation in China where farmers had a rat problem in their fields. The rats were eating their crops. They tried poison them, but soon found that the poison seeped into their crops. So they brought in a type of snake to eat the rats. Crop production increased, but now the farmers were getting bitten by the snakes and dying. The snakes had no natural predators. On the front end, something looks really GOOD and promising, but then there is always an unintended consequence. The perfect metaphor can be found in our pharmaceuticals. Goodness gracious, when you read the voluminous list of side effects, why would anyone want to take some of those meds they are advertising??? As with anything, we must weigh our choices in the balance to assess if we gain more than we lose. We live in a world of convenience but what is the unintended consequence of our drive toward living a life that saves or simplifies work and adds to our comfort?
As I ponder, I realize that there are so many things invented to contribute toward our convenient living, I hardly know where to begin to evaluate the answer to my question. Let me say quite clearly that I am a participant in this convenience-seeking world, so I do not stand on a didactic plateau shouting down my platitudes. When we were first married, we moved to England and I thought that we were living in a 3rd world country with our lack of American conveniences. I am not proud about those youthful privileged thoughts! Now, I just wish to process and see how I can better navigate these years when I wish to make the most of my time. Writing is how I process and clarify.
I guess I will go with the most obvious and the most disheartening tipping of the scales. Relationships. We have lost so much in the area of relationships in the name of convenience. Technology has led us to a screen and away from face to face interaction. We have been seduced into thinking it is easier to connect with others this way. To some extent, that may be true. I personally love stalking my FB site to see pictures of long lost friends from the convenience of my desk. It makes me think that I am connecting, but I have lost the actual benefit of being with another human soul, not only in the time I spent in front of the screen, but also in thinking that I have actually connected with these people who live only in Facebook land. It is like looking through a window. As an introvert, this makes me feel safe, however, as a human who has a need for true community, I lose.
In public, the romance between people and their smart phones is glaringly obvious. It is becoming a herd mentality. We mimic each other. But we know it happens in homes too. I’m guilty, I confess. Sometimes, Steve and I will be in the same room and we are each on our phones oblivious of each other. I’m quite sure they (whoever THEY are) will soon be coming up with another physical ailment similar to tennis elbow….perhaps smart phone neck. This handheld gadget is allowing me to forget how to be considerate of the person I am with when I stop to answer a phone or check a text mid conversation. I give myself permission to be rude with comments that may sound considerate like…excuse me but I must check this text. Ummmm….SO the clear message I am sending is that the one on the other end of my message, whoever they are, takes precedence over who is sitting in front of me?! NOT cool! It is becoming an addiction. I can’t even just sit and wait patiently at a stoplight anymore or watch a commercial. If there is a lull, I check my phone. New label looming on the horizon!? ASD = Addictive Screen Disorder. Just made that one up. We lose courtesy and consideration for others and the ability to be alone with our own thoughts.
I observe that it is so easy to type our barbs of sarcasm, hatred, and judgement as we stand protected by our computer screens. Floodgates have been unleashed in recent times. If we were face-to-face for these spirited conversations, we might be inclined to filter our words until we had time to digest them. We might be kinder and more willing to listen. We might because we would have nothing to hide behind when saying them. We lose the art of polite discourse in our relationships which may lead to better understanding and better solutions.
Inadvertently, we are schooling our kids to do the same. Our children may find themselves losing the face-off when we stop to answer a text in the middle of a conversation with them. Our habits provide the examples that bleed into their behaviors. The youth are opting for screens instead of outside play. They are sitting when they should be moving. They are opting for passive entertainment instead of allowing themselves to be bored long enough to be creative. They, too, are hiding behind their screens to crush the budding self-esteem of their peers with a barrage of likes or dislikes and, so too, feel the backlash as others bear witness to their platform. They find their way through social media doorways into alleys that both endanger them and teach them things long before they are mature enough to understand. Parents, your job has never been more difficult. How do you protect your children from convenience? The stakes are so high. Our children lose their innocence and their childhood.
Through the convenience of smart phones, employers and customers have 24/7 access to our family members. We are not ever off duty….like EVER. Not on vacations, not at home, not in the car, and not even in the air. These smart gadgets, instead of creating more time, have sneakily usurped all of it. You can unplug, but there will be consequences. I heard a boss once say that she emailed their employees all weekend with work related info but they didn’t have to respond. However she confessed that she thought badly of the ones who didn’t. Steve got a work phone call last night at 10 pm. We lose our “free” time.
We present our screen selves in the best possible light which builds its own wall of pretense and fosters a sense for comparison. Actually or subliminally we see others as better than or happier than ourselves. That still happens in the real world, but it is glaringly magnified with the minutia of pictures of fabulous homes, amazing vacations, perfect children, and pinterest perfect parties on constant display. I am not saying not to post your cute pictures or that you should air your dirty laundry on a public forum, but I am saying that it does have an unintended effect. We all have problems with our relationships, our kids, and our finances, but it gives someone struggling with any of these issues the mistaken idea that they are the only one. We lose our authenticity and the courage to ask for support from others that may help in times of true need.
Fast food is another convenience that has impacted our relationships by eliminating time spent in the kitchen. Some of my best conversations and memories as a child took place in the kitchen. Hopefully my own kids remember kitchen time as a time of comfort while they sat at the table doing homework while I was preparing dinner. (We still have that table by the way with our boys writing forever etched into the wood. LOVE it) Fast food by its very nature can be eaten on the run. It erases a fertile opportunity in the preparation time and the chance to gather around the table at meal time for uninterrupted family time. Not to mention that our convenient foods have most definitely had their impact on our health as they are usually processed and filled with additives and preservatives that may impact seriously our time on this planet. We lose a valuable place for great foundation building.
I could go on…and on. I have decided to look at the scales to weigh my gains and losses in this world that has been created by us. Which way do the scales tip? Have I gained more that I have lost? What can I do about it in this season? What do I stand to lose if I don’t adjust?
The convenient path is rarely the most rewarding. ~ Unknown