Too Much Information

October 3, 2014

“A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches.” –Proverbs 15:16 

 

Not too long ago, I found myself strolling along a quiet back road of a Guatemalan village. Brightly-colored concrete walls with wooden windows shielded most of the day’s activities; leaving me undistracted to marvel at the deep blue mountain sky and the warmth of the sun. From the distance, a young woman approached. The intricate weaves of her dress identified her as an indigenous villager. Balanced on her head was a large wooden bowl and from beneath her traditional wrap, a baby spied on the world around him.

 

As we passed, an all-too-familiar sound produced the reflexive snap of my arm that instantly brought my cell phone to my ear; but my phone hadn’t rung. The indigenous woman was giggling as she pushed buttons in her palm.  It was her cell. And it was much newer than mine.

 

Technology…..it’s catching on everywhere!

 

Admittedly, I have fallen behind the technology curve. This may be why I am comfortable here in Guatemala. I carry my little internet-free flip phone proudly. You may scoff, but the most important thing to me was that it fit into my pocket. It serves my purpose. Quite frankly, I don’t even take it everywhere I go. I constantly leave it in the car. If I’m home, it’s probably turned off.  

 

Not to say that I am a technophobe.  While I do have a hard time using smart phones to their full capabilities, I practically live on a computer down here. Granted, it’s a rather large, heavy laptop and I like attaching an old plastic keyboard to it because I make fewer errors that way; but I am savvy-enough to create new web pages. Plus, I tweet!

 

What I could be called is a techno-alarmist. No; I don’t worry about super-computers or robots taking over the world. But I have noticed that smart phones and tablets are already halfway there.

 

People are walking the streets everywhere gazing at their phones. We text while people are speaking to us. We follow our GPS instructions onto railroad tracks and down dark alleys. We can’t stop for a bite at McDonalds without checking Facebook! We are enslaved by our hand-held devices! Well…. At least a lot of YOU are.

 

It scares me a bit. I used to worry that my kids would never be able to do math because schools allowed calculators. Now I’m worried my grandchildren will never find their way home or remember to eat without a cell phone or tablet.

 

The truth is these things are supposed to simplify our life; but they are really making it more cluttered and crazy. They provide input overload for our brains. It is going to take a toll. Watch the people in a crowded room when someone’s phone rings or buzzes. Most will have some kind of physical reaction, like an arm moving or a jerk of the head. All of them will have a brain-spike which we would see if we happened to have them all hooked up to EEGs. This can’t be good.

 

In hospitals, there is a phenomenon called ICU-psychosis. It occurs when a patient being totally cared for keeps hearing the beeps, boops and whooshes of machines until their brain goes into overload. The person starts acting bizarre. Sedation doesn’t work. They need to be removed from the unit for a while.

 

This is what is happening to mankind in a world of electronic overload. It used to just be excessive video games that we worried about. But there are already more than a dozen physical and psychological diagnoses specifically addressing symptoms ranging from phantom vibrations (like a cell phone buzzing in your pocket) to social media withdrawal issues. We think we can relax because we are “totally connected” to everything happening in the world; but our brains are stressing out!

 

Life is meant to be lived simply. I can think of few things other than if my pants are on fire that I need to know immediately. A friend has a smart phone that beeps and/or vibrates every time the weather forecast is updated, whenever her sports team does anything, and every time CNN or News12 decides something else is noteworthy. On top of that, she get alerts for every status update of her 500-plus Facebook friends, as well as any tweet sent by about fifty various celebrities and fashion stores. That is nuts.

 

Of course, smart phones serve a purpose. My daughters apparently have Guatemala news alerts, because when the earthquake hit last year, they were reaching out to me before I even knew what happened. And I’m assuming that you all immediately review all my Facebook posts and tweets, right? These things are important.

 

There has only been one moment that I regretted not having my cell phone with me. When one of my daughters flipped her car over on the Parkway a few years back, no one could get a hold of me for a whole thirty minutes. I returned to my car to find about twenty messages on my cell.

 

Do you know what happened as a result of that delay? Nothing. The police and ambulance still showed up, the tow truck was dispatched, and she was taken care of. Thank God, she was not hurt. There was really nothing I could have done to make a difference in the whole thing.

 

This is truer when it comes to general news. Is there really going to be a different result if we hear about flooding in China now versus later? Is it really that important to know right away that Princess Kate is pregnant? Are you sending a gift? Is your life going to fall apart because you didn’t watch the kitten video as soon as it was posted? Probably not.

 

So let’s chill out about things. Let’s help our brains and bodies relax with a little “off” time; as in, turn off all the phone alerts and walk away from the tablet for a while. Let’s pay attention to the real world; the one God put here for us to enjoy.

 

Trust me; No matter how many pixels you have or how great the new two-speaker system sounds, a beautiful ocean with waves washing up on a beach is infinitely more awesome in person than on video.

 

 

LOOK UP! Don’t miss God’s next blessing. 

 

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