Talking Technology

What is it about  communication technology that we find so irresistible?

Sales of smartphones are exploding.  In 2010 smartphones were 9% of Samsung’s cellphone sales; in 2012 the smartphone share is expected to be 50%.  And then there is Apple.  Apple sold 72 million iPhones in 2011.  First quarter sales alone were 37 million phones in 2012.  IPads are on a similar trajectory.  Analysts estimate that total iPad sales may reach 100 million this year.

Have you seen Google’s latest project? 

I have to admit, that looks pretty cool.

In a Wall Street Journal interview with Liz Gannes, All ThingsD reporter, Liz comments that these Google glasses might free us from the need to carry something around all the time.  So awkward.  How do we manage?

Sudeshna Sen, in his article Is it really important, what FB, Apple, Google will do next? in The Economic Times, is wary of techno-trends.  “What I don’t like about all this gizmo fervour is the pressure it puts on people to keep up with the latest whatchamacallit…Last time I was in India, tech gizmos are what everyone in what is already an almost hysterically status-symbol society, was flashing.”

Why must we have smartphones and tablets (and, someday, Google’s glasses)?  That is not a rhetorical question; I am honestly curious.  Theoretically, we use smartphones because we need them.  Technology that makes our lives easier is always attractive.

But, I’m sorry, the kid at the playground checking his smartphone in between sliding down a slide and climbing a tree (I observed this very phenomenon yesterday), does not need a smartphone.   My husband knows of someone who recently arrived in this country, does not have a job, and has little means of support, but has bought a smartphone.  I guess information is more necessary than food.  Even sadder, a Chinese teenager recently sold his own kidney to buy an iPhone and an iPad.

Clearly, there is more to the wild popularity of smartphones than wise use of technology.

What hunger drives such behavior?  Do smartphones satisfy a craving for status? Information? Communication? Entertainment?  Importance?

We are living in an age of instant and immediately accessible information.  Perhaps we measure our worth in an information age by our participation in the creation and appropriation of knowledge and data.  Furthermore, taking notes on a yellow paper tablet on a conference room table full of iPads might cause uncomfortable status anxiety.  And we all really do like new toys.

Our fascination with instant communication and access to unlimited information also strikes me as a little heady, like we really can know it all.  In fact, Google’s mission is “… to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

If there were a tower of Babel today, this might be it.

Technology is a legitimate expression of human ingenuity and creativity.  I believe God approves of our culture-creating efforts, and we should take full advantage of all that communication devices have to offer.  However, as has been the case since the beginning of time, when we worship that which we create, we are in trouble.

With all due respect to Google, we will never grasp or gather all the world’s information.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”  Deuteronomy 29:29

I am truly interested in your thoughts about this trend.  To what do you attribute the smartphone explosion?  What do you think of Google’s prototypical glasses?  If you own a smartphone, how do you use it? If you do not possess a smartphone, why not?

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not own a smartphone, because I do not need one. The iPad, however, is tempting.

23 thoughts on “Talking Technology

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  1. Judy, this is excellent. I have a natural fear of tech-stuff, seriously–so that, and living “low income”, keep me from acquiring more things I don’t understand and don’t really want to learn. “Tower of Babel” indeed!! The availability of, or access to, immediate information provokes this response in me: if the information were truth–or full of positives and beauty–that would be one thing. However, I’m reminded of something I was told as a youngster–“just because it’s in the newspaper, TV, doesn’t mean it’s true/accurate.” Surely that statement is “truer” than ever, since the Internet/Google, etc. I hover between amused and irritated/disgusted, when I ask someone a question (“do you know…?”) and they say, “Google it”. I know how to Google–I’m asking, “do YOU know?” Have a much blessed week, Judy!

    1. You were given wise advice as a youngster! It’s more difficult than ever to find the truth among the many perspectives and presentations that a Google search will bring to our screens. I appreciate that you stop by to read here:) Blessings back to you this week, Caddo.

  2. Wonderful, thoughtful post and great comments! I believe it all boils down to where it (smartphones or any other object – new or old) fits in with doing life in God’s unforced rhythms of grace as we go about the work He’s given us to do. Blessings!

  3. Going a step further, okay? My biggest problem in my walk with the Lord is not technology, it’s pride. Over and over again, pride is where I fall short of the mark. So, my belief is that it’s not wrong to have cell phones, laptops, iPads, Bose speaker systems or whatever as long as those things don’t own you.

    1. I completely agree, Larry. As I think about this issue personally, my pride is wrapped up in my use of technology. I fight a desire to have a smartphone even though I really don’t need it because…everyone has a smartphone. That’s not about the technology; it’s about my pride or image or status. Yet, here I sit, writing a blog on my laptop, taking full advantage of that technology! Thanks for taking the discussion to the heart of many issues: our prideful, selfish hearts.

      1. Because I have struggled so much with the sin of pride, I know we can be filled with pride about not having technology and thereby not pleasing the Lord either. Our walk with the Lord is solely based on pleasing Him.

  4. Wow, Judy. I’m really going to put myself out there on this one. But, here it goes.

    We purposefully do not own a lot of tech gadgets. We have an old cell phone (and we only have one; my husband and I share it). We only recently bought a laptop because I was traveling alone to Guatemala on a mission trip (so we had to learn how to Skype b/c our old cell phone wouldn’t work there). We do not have cable television. No iPads or anything like that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to have gadgets! But, that’s the problem. I’d become consumed with them and lose touch with the mission for which God’s called me. And that is to minister to others (which includes my family). I know the gadgets are helpful to many in ministry. For me, personally, they would hinder me from the old-timey ways of socializing. For instance, I still send greeting cards and letters via postal mail. (And you can’t imagine how many people have told me it’s a great blessing because they realize the time it takes versus shooting them a text or email). I also call people on the telephone (using my home phone) to minister love in a meaningful conversation. And because my nose isn’t in a gadget while I’m out in public, my eyes are scanning my environment asking God whom He might have me share His love with that day. And when I do engage in a conversation with someone, they have my full attention since I’m not texting or fidgeting with a smart phone. My children also have my attention in the car (where we have some amazing bonding times) since I’m not a cell phone. I also get to stop my car and go into service stations to ask directions, which gives me an ever greater audience to share Christ.

    I simply feel that much is being missed by our consumption with technology (even though we are being deceived into thinking we are getting more).

    1. I love this, Cristal, and I admire your counter-cultural stance on this issue. As one who still sticks a stamp on a card and picks up a land-line phone, I really appreciate your heart in this. Technology is really a value-neutral commodity, but like anything, it can be used well or used poorly. I applaud you and your family for making careful decisions about your use of communication technology. (How do your children feel about it?:) Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Bless you in your ministry, wherever the opportunity shows up!

      1. My children understand; but I’m not an anti-tech parent. So if they save their money for an iPad or something like that, I’d certainly not oppose. I can share my convictions. But, they are simply that. MY convictions not to be borrowed by or pushed on others. There are many out there who likely use technology in some fascinating ways to build the Kingdom. I don’t doubt that for a minute. For me, personally, I am finding that (for now) less is more! And, like Larry said, PRIDE is a big issue. I believe it’s a heart condition in all things. For me, I know my limits. And I know I couldn’t handle all that jazz and still do what God’s called me to do. I had to delete my Facebook personal profile years ago for that reason. It was distracting me. And it revealed to me a heart condition (lack of discipline) I needed to work on. For others, I’m sure it’s not a distraction. So, the problems isn’t Facebook (or iPhones, iPads or Twitter). The problem is Cristal! 😉

  5. joe Walsh recently did some interviews on Seattle radio and has released a song called “Analog Man”. I think you might appreciate the poetry “Everything’s digital, I’m still analog….”
    “The whole world’s living in a digital dream, it’s not really there, it’s all on the screen”. Alot of folks I know, myself included, have smartphones and have to spend so much time “connected” for business purposes, Expectations are high for communication, people want an answer right away so I have learned to set firm boundaries. I think the “screen” attracts wiring in us humans – we like the next ‘big thing.’ But it’s to our detriment. I like church services with acoustic guitars and no overhead. I like having friends over for coffee. But I do believe it is becoming a generation gap to the detriment of our young people. They are in groups of friends and still looking at their texts and social media. It’ll be interesting to see if they really learn to get along, negotiate, have good relationships – without constant interruption. I heard a social media speaker call it “persistent distraction.” Smartphones are great but to me they are primarily a business tool, not something to run my whole life. I love how your blogs make me think.

    1. “The whole world’s living in a digital dream, it’s not really there, it’s all on the screen”. What an interesting statement. I really appreciate your thoughts on this as someone who runs your own business and, I’m sure, spends quite a lot of time on your smartphone. That’s just smart:) It sounds like you use technology wisely. I’m with you in really valuing face-to-face (not digital facebook faces, but flesh and blood faces) interactions. Maybe it is a generational thing, as you suggest. It will be interesting to watch this develops. You make the most important distinction, that technology is a tool to help us run our lives, but the danger is that it ends up running us. Thanks, KJ, for your thoughtful response!

  6. I don’t have a smart phone, for 2 reasons. First, I can’t work out what I would need it for, (although probably once I break down and get one I will wonder what I did without it!) and second, I can’t afford the initial cost, much less the monthly fees to use it! I find the more tech I have, the more time it takes. I do have an iPad, because I had to make the choice between that or a laptop, and the iPad is lighter to carry and didn’t need anti-virus (meaning more cost).

    Yes, I agree information/communication looks like it has become the new focus of society. The more information we can find (however useless that information might be) and the faster we can get it seems to be the most important thing… and of course how sleek and shiny and tiny the gizmo is! It is handy to have a tool that can do more than one thing …until that tool goes wrong, of course ….

    Thanks for your thoughts, Judy!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Sandi. Well said. I’m sure I too will one day wonder how I survived without a smartphone just like I wonder how I survived without a laptop or a plain old cell phone. Thanks again!

  7. What’s great about an iPhone, or any smartphone, is the combination of a small portable computer that is also a phone. Instant contact and information wherever you go.

    Google glasses – very cool – like what you’d see in a Sci-Fi movie! However, in the real world, instead of the flawless operation seen in the youtube video, there would likely be numerous glitches and limitations, especially with the first few models. Most importantly, would they have bifocal versions?!?

    Love your posts, Judy – always thought provoking!

  8. What I like about God is that He can not be placed in a box. So with that in mind, I have a new iPhone 4s. It’s wonderful. I use it for email, texting, taking photos, GPS, and the internet. I’m not a geek nor am I very hip…for heaven’s sake, I wear jeans, t-shirts, and baseball caps almost all the time, not very hip, right? But I do like the idea of having a smartphone, which is really a small laptop computer, with me at all times.

    Who knows? Maybe I’m reading your stuff, which I believe is important enough to read whenever and wherever I can.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, from an iPhone or from home:) You are among many who love, love, love their iPhones. I would too, I’m sure! I hope this post doesn’t give the impression that I am negative on smartphones; I’m not. I’m just fascinated by the trend and what it reveals about us and our culture. Thanks again for your feedback, Larry!

  9. Neither my husband nor I have smart phones, don’t feel the need to have one. Life is so much more easier, when things are simpler.

    1. Yes, simple is undervalued these days, isn’t it? So, I’m guessing you won’t be first in line for google glasses? I thought of simplicity watching the youtube video of those glasses. I’m not sure I’d like all that clutter literally in my face. Although I suppose some would argue that it simplifies things to just speak a command and have information right before one’s eyes. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

  10. Great post, your depth of thought even over something that seemed so trivial at first comes through. About the Tower of Babel, I heard Ravi Zacharius mention a statement to that effect too, so your not off if your thinking along lines with him. I don’t own a smart phone at this point, because I’m a “needs base” person, if I don’t see the need then I’m most likely not buying it. Second, I like tech, but so much of it seems to come with a money committment, gone are the days of buy it like it and enjoy, no its buy it, and pay for some additional service every month for the life of it, I tend to avoid those. Well these are my thoughts at first glance.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I agree with your evaluation of the cost/benefit, but it seems we are in the minority. Many people of all income levels don’t seem to mind spending the money. It’s obviously worth it to them. Thanks again for your thoughts!

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