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The Paradox of Time-Saving Devices

Cell phones. Tablets. Laptops. The list is ever-growing and ever-changing. All these devices are designed to makes our lives easier. To streamline our work. To give us more time. The trouble is they don’t.

Remember the books and articles that predicted computers that would be so efficient, they would liberate us from the shackles of an eight-hour work day? Give us a completely paperless society? They would enable us to accomplish more in less time, leaving us free to pursue leisure activities like never before. Computers were going to set us free.

So what happened? The computers materialized as predicted. They enabled us to accomplish our tasks faster. They streamlined our work. So where is the abundant free time?

  1. Instead of using our “extra’ time to pursue enjoyable activities and hobbies, we use it to get even more work done. The theory is if we can do a job in half the time, then we can accomplish twice as much as before.
  2. Doing our work more efficiently means, to most corporations, that fewer employees are required to do the same amount of work. So we all now do our own jobs and the jobs of the employees who have been downsized/rightsized/out-the-door-sized.
  3. The devices themselves are an insidious time drain, alluring in their designs, attractive in their promises of time-saving and entertainment. We are enchanted and then mesmerized. They hold a thrall over us that we cannot break. We compulsively check them. We pour more information into them. We get caught up in the web (slight pun intended) of communication and information. We don’t own them. They own us.
  4. The upkeep and maintenance of the devices is no small chore, either. Add it to the list of another damn thing to do.

The plus side is that we do communicate like never before. News spreads quickly. Response time is lightning fast. Organization and mobilization can happen like never before. (Remember SOPA?)

Unfortunately, we have to communicate quickly. No more complete sentences. No more fully spelled words. Who has the time to either write them or read them?

Teenage Hearing

We were worried about our daughter’s hearing. She’s sixteen and never seems to hear anything we say. Comments made to this kid are usually answered with “Hmmm?” Requests for her to do something invariably are met with “What?” And never try calling to her from another room. You will grow old waiting for a reply.

We were seriously considering getting her hearing tested when we began to notice inconsistencies in her hearing. One day we were in the kitchen pouring some crackers into a bowl when this supposedly deaf child suddenly appeared at our elbows.

“Can I have some?” she asked.

She had been in her bedroom at the other end of the house when she heard the crackers hitting the bowl.

Another time, we had opened a bag of pretzels and were sitting in the living room sharing them when we looked up and saw her standing there.

“How’d you know we had pretzels?” we asked as she dived into the bag.

“I heard you chewing,” she replied.

Or how about the time we were having an in-depth and lengthy discussion about a very special character in one of our books who needed to be able to communicate with other characters without giving too much information away, which would ruin the plot. We went back and forth for a good twenty minutes when our daughter called out from her bedroom.

“Make it communicate with feelings instead of words,” she said.

She had followed the entire conversation, which was taking place in the living room. And what was even more astounding, her suggestion was terrific. We used it, and it added a great dimension to the story. However, when we yelled back, “Thanks!”, we received no reply.

Sigh. Do you suppose there is a test for selective hearing in teens?

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