My daughter is off to college.

I am now forced to learn how to operate our 52” flat screen TV among other things.  There are 3 different clickers that are responsible for specific functions and I know how to use one of them…sort of.

Remember when TVs were designed as a piece of furniture? Or, in the 60’s when color became the standard? How about when you actually had to get up to turn it on or off? And, I have memories of the panic that was experienced when the knob that we turned to change the channel (there were 7 of them) came off in my hand? Today, the channels have increased exponentially due to cable and satellite! Flat screen televisions now hang on the wall as artwork and there are even multiple screens in cars to keep us sufficiently entertained.

Mobile devices also have the ability to throw me in into technological confusion!  Rotary dial phones and the push-button touch-tones were simple. Phones were attached to a jack and you could only walk as far as the cord would allow.

Isn’t technology wonderful and exciting?  It is changing how we live and socialize.

Advertisers entice us to stay up-to-date and compel us to purchase each new phase of technology.  With every new gadget comes an instruction manual that explains what it can do along with how to use it.  Details, warnings and safety instructions galore! However, what the instructions don’t tell us is how to embrace technology in a way that is socially appropriate.  Besides, how many of us actually read the manuals?

Immediate or delayed?

With technology there is an expectation of immediacy.  It used to be if someone called and you were not home, they had to call back.  Now, we usually have some type of voice mail where a message is left and it becomes our responsibility to call back. Although, some people feel compelled to hunt you down via cell phone, text and/or email.

If we want information we no longer wait for the paper, the 5:00 o’clock news or an opportunity to go to the library.  Internet access and satellites offer information and news immediately.  Wars and bombs go off in our living rooms via television. Watching something happen live can be very exciting such as the rescue of Chilean minors. It can also be heartbreaking… like watching the tsunami in Japan in real-time… feeling powerless to change the outcome.

If we are lost we can use a navigation system in our car or cell phone.  It’s now possible to know where there is a “sigalert” to avoid traffic (my favorite.)  We call or text to let others know if we are delayed which eliminates the worry factor.  I value being able to find my ultimate destination even though I love the meandering and exploration that comes with getting lost.

Talk or Text?

Text is ideal if you want to convey a simple message. For example, I notice that the horn honk has been replaced by the subtle text of the word “here” when picking up a friend.  Texting can be used like passing notes in school or meetings when bored.

Texting is the new way of communicating.  The problem is that it can take the place of conversation. Therapists are now hearing things like, “We have a better communication through text.” Or, “We text all day long to each other so we really don’t know what to say when we are together.” This is a recent trend in the last two years.  The problem is so much communication is missed through text because we can’t hear the subtle nuances of their voice.

Unfortunately, people text things they don’t want shared or the context is missing and it can be easily misconstrued.  If forwarded or read to others it can be hurtful or damaging.

The New Computer?

Cell phones are now capable of games, email, GPS, Face Book, text, calculators… ad- infinitum.  They can take pictures and record history with video.  (I thoroughly enjoy having to carry only one gadget!) Applications are created and updated continually. The good news is you can work from anywhere.  The bad news is you might be expected to work from anywhere — at any time!

While at a concert last fall I made an observation: during intermission the audience lit up with the glow of mobile devices, eerily illuminating hundreds of faces.  Email, voicemail, texts, and FaceBook checked. The interaction between friends and lovers appeared to be secondary.

We are witness to one sided conversations on the streets, in grocery stores and restaurants.  Ever think about going up to someone and ask them to put the speaker on so you can hear the entire conversation? Especially if they are laughing.

Cell phones have become the new security blanket.  They allow us to be connected to someone every second of the day.  We no longer have to do anything alone.  Many of us even feel uncomfortable if we leave home without it.

Social Graces of Technology

As a therapist, I use and see the benefits of technology.  I am also able to see how and where it gets people into trouble with their relationships. So here are some tips:

  • When you are with a friend be present.  Focus on them and your relationship, not who is texting or calling you.
  • Use caution with text or email.  All too often information gets forwarded when it should be private. Not everyone is trustworthy.
  • Ask people how or where they would like to be reached.  Respect the boundary.  Just because you call does not mean they must answer.
  • Be safe. Follow the laws created for mobile devices while driving.  Also, be aware that television in the car is another distraction.
  • To text or answer your phone while at the dinner table would probably be a “DON’T” according to Miss Manners.
  • Ask permission before posting pictures on the Internet.  Don’t ever take or send a picture to someone unless you are okay with the whole world seeing it… parents, grandma,and constituents included!!!
  • Be aware of addictive traits.  Is your technology use getting in the way of responsibilities and relationships?


Technology creates a continuous new frontier that makes our lives easier. It keeps us connected to others all over the world but it can also isolate us from our immediate relationships.

Using technology makes me feel “young and hipster.” I only wish I could read the print on the clickers so I could work the television. Thank goodness my daughter has a cell phone!

If you have a topic you would like to have addressed please email me at

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