Once the calculator was invented, I don’t think any student or adult was heard to say, “Gee, I wish I could go back to the good old days when I had to count on my fingers and toes, or do this math in my head.”
But I wonder: After the invention of the car, weren’t there some people who missed traveling by horse? Who enjoyed traveling in the open air, going slowly, taking care of an animal that needed food and attention rather than a machine that ate gas and polluted the air?
I wonder about these things as I ponder the changes in today’s technology with the advent of computers and the Internet. I don’t think anyone traded in his car for a horse, or got rid of her washing machine and went back to the wash board. I know there’s no going back. But are the benefits of modern technology worth what we have lost? Do computers bring us closer together, or send us farther apart?
For years now — well, ever since the Internet and my home computer — I have made travel arrangements using websites like Travelocity and Kayak. I can sit at home and compare prices of flights on different airlines. I can purchase my ticket online and print my boarding pass at home — or send it to my cell phone’s app, without using paper at all.
Who wants to go back to the “good old days” which I still remember, when I would either call various airlines on my land line, or go to our local travel agency where they would find what they told me was the best deal and print my ticket?
They were friendly and did a good job. But now I can do this any time, day or night, and find the best deal myself. Yet what about the human contact — talking to a person, explaining the purpose of my trip and who would be going with me? Yes, now there is time saved, the best deal is accomplished, but human contact is lost.
And online classes? You’re listening to a teacher here — me — and I believe the magic of teaching happens in the conversations teachers have with their students in class. But nowadays many students take classes “online” — it’s called virtual learning. Yes, they can go at their own pace. Yes, they can get immediate feedback from the computer. But what happened to the human connection? The feedback from a human being?
When I left the Reflector to become a teacher, still writing my weekly column, I would type the column at home and bring it in to the newspaper where a kind person would type it into the system. Now? I send it by email and I get an email back so that I know my column has been received. Next time I see it, it appears in the newspaper. A streamlined process, yes. No chance of error by a typist. But no human contact, either. From my computer to the Reflector’s computer.
I will never go back to the days before FaceTime and Viber and Facebook and messaging on my cell phone. I get to chat with my little grandsons over the screen. I receive videos and photos of them. My computer alerts me to the best travel deals. There are awesome teaching websites and I have access to so much information and many ideas for lessons that I would never have, if I only had access to face to face conversation. I love it.
But emoticons are not real smiles, and LOL is not the sound of human laughter. My email address is not my home; my profile picture is not me. You can find me on Facebook, but you will find the real me in the kitchen, cooking dinner, wishing for more human interaction.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at email@example.com.