is nature a cure for technology overload?

I often wonder, and I’ve heard others express the same sentiment, what did I ever do without computers?! I can’t imagine my life without them. My grandchildren have never known what life was like without all this technology. Thomas loves computer games. Vimmy loves music videos and recently discovered Google, which led to an interesting discussion with her mother after a typical 7-year-old meltdown: Visiby upset, she shouted with all the venom she had in her, You’re not my mother! Her mother of course, who for the record really is her mother, wanted to know how she came up with that idea?  I know because I googled it! And it said you weren’t my real mother! Interesting. As I said, you can find just about anything by Googling, whether it’s in support of or against your argument.

When you see the lips of the person in the cars beside you in traffic are moving, in the old days you would have assumed they were singing along with the radio. These days, they’re more likely talking on their cell phones, sometimes dialing before they’ve left their parking spots.

We acquired our first computer in 1985, while our two daughters were still in the middle and high school. We still relied on the networks for TV entertainment, and we didn’t have internet service until years later after the girls were both in college. It was the antiquated dial-up and we were thrilled. Without web service, that first computer really amounted only to a glorified word processor, but it was handy for typing legible homework assignments without developing writer’s cramp, and it was faster. I was taking University courses myself at the time, trying to learn how to write my own stories, so that first computer got a fair amount of workout. All this without constant erasing and applying whiteout paint.

Nowadays I feel  as though I’m glued to the chair in front of my PC monitor too much of the time. I seem to need it for so many things that interest me these days. If I want to know side effects of my prescribed meds or need to nudge the old noodle to remember who won the Oscar for that movie, what was it called? I Google or Bing it, it’s there somewhere. I want to know how to make a Tomatilla sauce. That one, indeed several versions, plus millions more recipes pop up quickly. As my interest in shopping declines, I depend on online shopping. If it’s not found locally, order online where it’s often cheaper. You save not just fuel and wear and tear on your car and your feet, you may not pay taxes on it either, and it will be delivered to your front door in a week or 10 days time, often for free! One day, after a long bout in that chair, I decided I’d take the time to organize my travel photos, and it suddenly hit me. I’m tired of sitting in front of a monitor most of day. So I decided to put the brakes on, hence my general slowdown in regular blogging. I needed to spend more time getting back to things I used to be interested in–art, music, reading books, sewing, etc., reconnecting with the me that I was before personal computers.

I’m startled to realize I was one of the pioneers of my age-group to jump into this new technology in my early 50s. Most of my friends refused to bother with it.  Not for long. After 2012 I read somewhere, half of all retired persons (or senior citizens for lack of a better word) create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. (I wonder what’s wrong with the other half). I still process words, I organize my digital photos, I blog in- between necessary old-fashioned household tasks, though my washer, dryer, and even the sewing machine, are computerized. When I can fit it in, not with any degree of regularity, I still blog as you can see, because–let’s face it–I’m addicted!

Hubby and I attended a lecture on Sunday about the current research of a University of Utah professor, David Strayer, with whom our son-in-law worked on a study about the effects of texting and talking on the cellphone while driving. Dr. Strayer suggests that a natural environment, like that in which our ancestors evolved, is associated with exposure to stimulus that elicits a gentle, soft fascination, (as opposed to the hard fascination of horns honking, telephones ringing, TVs and radios blaring) and is emotionally positive and low-arousing. The study suggests that exposure to nature engages in our brains a “default mode” of restful introspection implicit in the efficient task performance requiring frontal lobe function, while restoring cortex-mediated “executive processes” like selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking. In other words, taking a hike or getting out in nature–away from all of the technological distractions–might be useful in helping clear our minds, restoring and refreshing our creative juices to face real life in a real world.
Hubby’s and my generation, and to some degree that of our daughters, straddle the shift from traditional industry to that of the industrial revolution or technology brought to us through industrialization. We can remember what it was like before computers and social networking. Thus we can appreciate the way they expand the world for us, yet we can function without them. While most of us would be loath to be forced to, we know we could survive if necessary without them. Our grandchildren, however, have watched their parents and grandparents play with and use computers their whole lives, and now they’re making their own discoveries. What about them? It will change them, but how? What kind of social adults will they grow up to be? Will they know more, make more discoveries, be even more productive, than we were? In my mind, it’s the perfect time for studies like these. We should know  the implications of all this technological overload. And will reconnecting with nature prove to be–not a self centered diversion–but a necessary part of the preservation of the human species?
In closing, Dr. Strayer shared a video the research team found on YouTube, and I share it here with my readers. It runs a minute 26 seconds so it won’t take much time, and I’m sure you’ll find it entertaining, if not–as I do–a little disturbing. A perplexed one-year-old,  obviously already exposed to an iPad, is a little confused that her finger doesn’t work on that weird magazine “thingie” with pictures and words on it. Funny. And a little sad, too.

8 thoughts on “is nature a cure for technology overload?

  1. Yikes – that’s why Tin goes to Waldorf. Everyone loves to say, isn’t Waldorf anti-technology and I gloat – it’s about tools that are developmentally appropriate – a one year old doesn’t need an iPad – I’m sorry. Meanwhile, you know I sent Loca to live in the country with my relatives – I should have sent myself, since she’s been gone the urgent need to walk 40 minutes in the morning is gone and now I find myself always pushing it aside – and getting rounder by the minute. Just having the park nearby to walk and see nature is my church – it renews me each morning – and yet, I’ve been a slacker and I’m paying the price for it. I’ve been in front of this computer way too much – especially this week with Tin sick at home. Nature HERE I COME!

    • Really, it’s always been about balance, hasn’t it. We know that yet most Americans teeter from one extreme to the other, don’t we? As long as we’re aware that the struggle for is for good reason, and keep on striving for it, we can make it. Hope Tin is fully recovered soon.

      On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 6:37 PM, My Wintersong

  2. Alas, some people are so busy teaching their offspring how to use technology that they forget to teach or allow them to play. Bring back the empty box!

    • This is one of my own pet peeves, G’mar, the over-scheduling many parents are guilty of these days. I say, give them time to daydream and cloud gaze, and don’t call it time wasting! I think that may be an effective means of clearing the cobwebs as well.

      On Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 1:21 AM, My Wintersong

  3. Yes, you are a bellweather when it comes to computers. I started early leaning how to pprogram computers in 1961. LOL We got our first home computers in 85 too.

    I make a point of reading. Less time here and more with paper between boards. I find my brain is a happier thing if I do that. Yes, that child fortels the future. I’ll miss paper excitements.

    • I still don’t know how to program! And I guess I’m doing okay on my learn as there’s need to know basis. I like to think it keeps the old brain lubricated. I like reading as well, but my real passion lies in the pleasure of a well-turned sentence I pulled out of my thoughts. (Yuk! that certainly isn’t one of them! 😆 )

      On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 3:46 PM, My Wintersong

  4. I always thought my ex was a computer, so I use technology and don’t give it much thought. But I also think my grandchildren live on another planet. Maybe the technology has something to do with it.

    • That last statement probably has a lot to do with the why of the sentence before it. I think my grandparents may have had the same sense of things in their generation, but it just took me a long time to realize they were real people with their own thoughts, ways, desires. . . and I had no clue . At lease you and I are leaving clues to ours when they have time to look for them.

      On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 7:57 PM, My Wintersong

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