Technology has its place

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The past week has been an expensive one.

First of all, I had to break down and get four new tires for my car. Apparently they were slicker than owl spit, so I would chalk that purchase up as a necessity.

Secondly, I had to get a new modem and router for my computer. My connection was so poor that it would take an act of God to successfully attach a very small file to an email. I work from my computer, so I would also chalk this purchase up as a necessity.

Lastly, I purchased a new smartphone. I’d been experiencing problems with my Droid and my two year contract was up. Getting a new phone was a luxury. It certainly wasn’t a necessity. I went with the iPhone 5.

Growing up, we had the same black rotary phone hanging on the wall the entire 19 years I lived in that house, but for some reason, these days, I feel like I need a new phone every couple of years.

In hindsight, I’m glad we never had to dial 9-1-1 with that phone, because it would have taken a while for that nine to get all the way back around. In an emergency, time is precious.

I even remember my grandparents having a party line.

For you youngsters, a party line was an arrangement in which two or more customers were connected directly to the same line. Each household had a unique ring cadence which distinguished it from the other parties who shared the line.

One of the negatives, or perks, was that it was not uncommon for others to listen in on your call. My granddad was a God-fearing, level-headed gentleman but nothing got him fired up more than when “Gladys” would listen in on his conversations.

I didn’t get my first cell phone until I returned from my first deployment in November 2004. I held out as long as I could.

These days, I don’t even have a home phone.

Smartphones are amazing examples of technology. They keep us connected with friends, family, and colleagues through e-mail, texts, and social media. They allow us to keep up with the news, weather and sports. They even allow us to set our DVRs and home security systems from thousands of miles away.

All of this is outstanding but as someone who stutters, the single most important thing I look for in a phone is unlimited cell phone minutes. Simplicity is my forte.

I travel a great deal, so the GPS feature of my smartphone is essential and makes getting from point A to point B a breeze.

The other day, I overheard a young man reminiscing about the days when he actually had to print driving instructions from Mapquest. I intervened with recollections of looking at bed sheet-sized maps while driving down the highway in frustration. I didn’t even get to the drama of trying to fold it back up.

Technology certainly has its place.

Recently, I was eating dinner at a local restaurant. I was sitting at a table next to a family of four. I noticed they weren’t talking and that the two children were fidgeting with their phones. Although I’m not a parent, it perplexed me that the parents would allow their children to be totally consumed with this technology rather than be engaged in meaningful conversation.

My perplexity went to a different level when I got up to leave and noticed both parents were equally enthralled by their gadgets.

Technology is wonderful and makes life much simpler in a variety of ways but it should never take the place of good old fashioned one-on-one, face-to-face, ear-to-ear communication.

I applaud everyone who continues to advance technology, because if I was in charge of it, we’d still be churning butter. Actually, we probably wouldn’t have gotten that far.

For the record, smartphones are expensive, so I was wondering if anyone is interested in starting a party line with me.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com

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