Saturday, May 11, 2013

Technological Addiction

Today's social media, which have the potential to bring people together, can also alienate. I remember a cartoon depicting five people seated at a restaurant, each gazing at his or her cellphone rather than communicating.

There are echoes here of Ray Bradbury's story, "The Pedestrian," in which the residents of a futuristic city stay indoors and stare at TVs, afraid to go out; in fact, to take a walk is seen as almost subversive.

I was reminded of this while reading a recent interview with the star of the new Star Trek movie, Zachary Quinto, 35, who does not enthusiastically embrace all the techie wonders in his own life. He makes limited use of his smartphone but says, "I try to unplug as often as I can." This, from the latest Spock, scientific officer of the Enterprise in its 23rd century journeys.

His words were music to my ears. Tune out the noise, I want to say; be creative in thinking of other people, their needs. Take time for silence. Of course, the omnipresent cellphone is, even for me, an essential link in times of emergency, and I am grateful for such inventions. Although Quinto calls himself a Luddite, he really is no more a Luddite than I am.

It's all a matter of balance. Of using technology when necessary and not becoming addicted to or obsessed with electronic devices so that they become more important in our lives than people.

I was interested to see Quinto say that the proliferating advances in technology can dehumanize us.  We think we are so much more connected than we are, he says, but "we are actually becoming further and further away from true connection."  And that is scary. Ray Bradbury would agree with this actor, who is plugged in to what matters.

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