Twenty-four years ago when I started my corporate career the world was a different place. In the department I worked in–Information Technology, or Business Systems as it was called then–we didn’t even have personal computers on our desks. We had dumb terminals connected to a big mainframe in the back room and a centralized smart terminal in the middle of the department that we used to submit commands to the mainframe; we got up from our desks and walked over to the smart terminal to key in commands when we needed to. (There’s something to be said for the health benefits of that given recent studies revealing the negative impact to our health as a result of sitting at a desk for too long during the day.)
We had phones on our desks, but no voice mail, and if a co-worker’s phone rang you were expected to answer it, help the caller if you could, or jot down a message on a pink message pad to leave on the desk of the co-worker who’s phone had rang. When we first got voice mail, there was a lot of concern about the potential for decreased customer service so we were still expected to answer co-worker’s phones when they were away from their desk.
We finally got personal computers, and eventually there was a lot of buzz about some new-fangled thing called the internet. You had to put in a special request and justify your reason for wanting access to it. In my department–Information Technology remember–many of us requested access so we could “learn the internet”. I have no idea what that even meant.
These days I’m a big fan of the technology in my life. Text messaging is a grandma’s best friend when she’s out shopping: a quick text to ask a question about size, style, or suitability, a quick response, and I’m able to move on with my day (and my shopping). Facebook helps me keep up with what’s happening with friends and family, see current photos of the grands, and engage in good-hearted banter with my daughter especially. And Skype, I don’t know how long-distance grandparents survived without this one in the past.
There’s a trend I’ve noticed recently in the corporate world that mystifies me though. Smartphones. In meetings. It seems common place for some (mostly younger) individuals to spend a significant amount of time during meetings with their heads down, fingers scrolling, doing something on their phone. Catching up on email? Personal or work? Updating their Facebook status? Tweeting? Browsing Pinterest pins? I have no idea.
The outward appearance is one of disengagement and disinterest in the task at hand yet, for the most part, these technology-tied folk are still able to contribute and deliver results at work. I’ve read articles recently that indicate that we’re not so inclined to be able to multi-task as we once thought–that having competing priorities can have a negative effect on the quality of work and our general stress levels–so how is it that many of these young folks are able to stay engaged in the cyber-world at the same time as they’re building a career? Are they wired differently as a result of a childhood spent with technology all around them? What does this mean for the future of our grandchildren?
Will the lives of our grandchildren be one of constant connectivity? Will they be able to appreciate the smell of freshly mown hay, the sun on their shoulders, the dust of a country road beneath their feet? Will they be too busy Tweeting about it or snapping a pic to post on Instagram to engage in the simplicity of the moment? Or perhaps they’ll be able to do both in a way we don’t understand today. Maybe the wires in their brains being rerouted differently than ours were as a result of growing up playing Angry Birds instead of Kick the Can, and they’ll have the ability to fully delight in the glory of the sunset while they’re engaging in conversation about it on a little screen in 140 characters or less.
I hope so.
Dear Linda, I hope so too. An awareness of beauty and of the needs of others is surely one of the signs of maturity in a person–no matter how she or he is wired. Peace.
“An awareness of beauty and of the needs of others is surely one of the signs of maturity in a person.” I couldn’t agree more, Dee.
One of my first posts was about this same topic – http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/fiddles-radio-broadcasts-signing-off-and-i-pads/
It’s a topic I have a lot of interest in. It’s nice to see your perspective from the business world.
Christine, loved your post. Brought back so many memories for me. I can actually remember the very first day a TV was brought into our home. I was 5 or 6 at the time. Fortunately, scheduling included only 2-3 prime time hours so there was still time for the good old days’ activities. 🙂
I love your post too, Christine. Sometimes I think it’s my age that has me longing for simpler times more often but I am seeing this same longing some simplicity in my daughter and others from her generation, that encourages me.
Linda, you’ve touched on one of my great concerns — what will our children be able to remember about childhood other than some techno gadget or toy. Kick the Can seems to be obsolete as does Play School or playing jacks or so many other outdoor activities I remember with fondness. It looks like you, Christine and I have the potential here to begin some kind of national campaign, if we were so minded, but then I’d rather be writing! How about you? Thanks for a thoughtful and memory-filled post.
Sherrey we can do both, right?! We can write about this concern and our fine memories of simpler times. Your comment above reminded me of when we got our first colour TV. Dad brought it home as a surprise one Saturday afternoon and we sat and watched golf–in awe of the green grass on the screen.
I have similar worries for my grandchildren. Their dad spends hours face-down on his phone rather than engaging in conversation about the world around him. Thankfully my daughter remembers her childhood and wants that for her kids. But still, I get sad whenever I go anywhere and no one talks to each other–instead looking at their technology. They are missing so much that is better!