My 8-year-old son will sit within arm’s reach of his Xbox 360 and use the voice commands to open the system door as opposed to extending his arm and pushing the button with his finger. This is typical in our lives. At any opportunity, we often make use of advanced technology just for the sake of using it, and not because it’s a necessity. We thirst for the convenience modern technology gives us, not because we’re inherently lazy and not because we need it, but because we want it and because we can create it and then why not use technology, even to our disadvantages, as much as we can. And maybe that accustomed reliance and overuse makes us indolent.
My 3-year-old child is completely accustomed to living an “on demand life.” During his entire existence he has been exposed to watching television on Netflix or from a DVR. He listens to music on iTunes and when we don’t have a particular piece of media, we can pull up any song, image or video within seconds just by doing a simple search on the internet or from our smartphones. There have been times where we’re in the car, listening to traditional radio and my toddler doesn’t grasp the concept that you can’t just pause, rewind or search for your favorite song. The same is true for the few times we watch television without the aid of the DVR. The need to have to wait for anything in our lives is waning and his ability to be patient has suffered from lack of ever having to be patient with technology and really with much anything else in life. Gosh, can you remember dial-up. Anyone under the age of ten doesn’t have any idea what that’s like. Waiting isn’t something we teach or are learning anymore.
When women’s roles in the workforce and family dynamics began to shift during the 1950s-70s and onward, it also brought about the rise in our need for convenience items such as “TV dinners” and prepackaged frozen meals. A typical American family’s routine in today’s society may look completely different than it did 60 years ago. With those changes our diets have been revamped, as well as the average weight and waist size. Convenience has a way of hurting us in many aspects when it gives us shortcuts in life. Obesity, impatience and brain function to name a few.
This year, local grocer, Wegmans (at their Pittsford location), has unrolled a new convenience of “curbside pickup.” For $10 you can call ahead and pick up your groceries from the ease of never leaving the seat of your car. While conveniences like this may feel like a short term life-saver for parents with small kids or the busy person who works all day or the elderly who may have trouble making it through the large store for the items they need, it also has a negative impact on the amount of physical activity we do just to get through life. And it’s not just one trip to the store we’re avoiding, it’s many things throughout the day that we do differently that makes us less active. It adds up. Many of us text family members from across the room because it’s easier than putting our cellphones down. It also hampers our ability to fend for ourselves. We no longer have to memorize driving directions or need to remember how to spell big words. I recently read a comment at the end of an article about the new grocery service mentioned above that said, “$10 is worth saving an hour of my busy day that I could put towards spending with my family.” While that may be completely true, and I whole-heartily sympathize with that busy person, because I often find myself swamped with “not enough hours in the day” feeling, we pay a price for life being so super convenient.
It’s a fact that Americans just don’t do as much physical activity as we used to. The majority of our children aren’t raised working on farms or participating in manual labor. It’s more typical to see kids hovered around a video game system than to be running around outside. My kids often may play iPads in elementary school during their down-time instead of going outside for recess. How many of us have heard the old story about our parents walking uphill to school both ways? Today there are limits on the amount of distance children walk to school before they are provided with bus transportation; and many of us adults have the convenience of driving cars. In our busy lives we increasingly have less time and less of a need to get exercise and acquire the recommended “healthy steps” in on a daily basis. The problem is a combination of trying to fit in too many things in one day, and finding the latest and the greatest advancements and conveniences to make our lives able to make all those things fit. Sometimes I think about how I would have less stress and more positive benefits in my life if I just simplified what I do, including the technology I rely on and the services I rely on others to do.
I hear many people joke about remembering way back when we had phones that hung on the walls with cords. If we’re being honest with ourselves the need to have the latest cell phone or smart phone has less to do with being a necessity than being accustomed to wanting the latest device. We’ve created a level of laziness, and impatience and inability to think for ourselves (by the way of autocorrect, instant phone books, texting, instant Wikipedia, etc) and reliance on the technology and conveniences like curbside pickup hinder our capacity for physical activity and other conveniences hinder humans from using our minds, memory capacity, and brain function. If you don’t use it you lose it.
If you teach a man to fish, you will teach him for a lifetime… if you take away the man’s reason to get up on his feet and fish at all, he becomes lazy and helpless.