Has technology affected our sense of connection to society?

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By Renee Sloan, Page Designer/Staff Writer

If I had a nickel for every cell phone, iPod or BlackBerry given this Christmas, I could retire early.

I am not one of those people opposed to technology. In fact, I had several of the latest tech gadgets on my Christmas list. Technology is great—but lately I have been wondering how it’s affecting our society. Do we as a society interact less because it is more convenient to whip out our cell phone and text?

A recent trip to a restaurant was a real wake-up call. I was standing by the host’s station waiting to be seated when I noticed a family walk in. Normally the sight of a family enjoying dinner together would be heart-warming.

This was not so heart-warming. Both kids were sporting earbuds, bopping to the tunes pumping into their heads.

Their adults with them were wired, too. The man was speaking into a Bluetooth headset, while the lady was busy texting on her BlackBerry.

The man stopped his conversation long enough to request a table, then went right back to barking into the headset.

I watched them for a while longer, interested in how they would interact with one another. Would they eat dinner with their headphones on? Would they use one hand to type and maneuver the fork with the other?

The host attempted to tell them their table was ready, but they weren’t listening. She got their attention on a second try. The man, woman and one child started toward the table. The other child was still standing by the door, swaying to the music. When the woman realized she was one child short, she looked back. She walked over to the girl and tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention and then hurried to their table.

I watched them walk through the restaurant and realized how easy it was for them to escape reality, even if for a few moments.

Even though I didn’t see them again, that family made an impact on me. They made me conscious of how prevalent technology is in our everyday lives, and how it has affected the way we interact with each other.

I won’t lie—I am addicted to my laptop, my iPod and cell phone. I see my laptop and my cell phone as necessities and use them daily. I would vow to cut back, but that just doesn’t seem feasible since I will be starting school this week. In fact, I will probably use them more than ever.

But what I will promise to do is make time to talk to people whenever possible. Instead of catching up with friends and family by sending e-mails or text messages, I’ll try to go see them (or at the very least call them).

I’ll refrain from using my cell phone inside restaurants, stores or doctor’s offices. I’ll limit my iPod use to just when I am cleaning house, or exercising (maybe that will help me keep my resolution to exercise more).

But while I may try to rely less on gadgets—I’m not swearing off them entirely. By the end of the week, I will probably be sitting at home working furiously, slouched over my laptop with cords snaking to external hard drives and digital cameras, all while squawking on my cell phone.

RENEE SLOAN is a writer and page designer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at rsloan@brunswickbeacon.com