Monday, March 11, 2013


Are We Loosing a Vital Part of Our Humanity?

I was sitting in a Church meeting the other day and I had a chilling thought:

You see, Santa brought me a tablet computer for Christmas and I love it!  It has replaced a large book bag that I used to have to carry around with me to Church to fulfill my calling.  Handbooks, notebooks, binders…all gone and stored on the memory of the small 7” tablet.  Which also has access to the entire gospel library, videos, web sites and more.  It is incredible and I love to use this tool. (you should see the looks of shock and amazement when I tell people that I don’t have any games on it).

But as I typed out some notes on the this device in my meeting, I felt like I was missing something, then it dawned on me what it was.  You see, part of my note-taking process includes doodling, and making notes of ‘inspirational thoughts’ that come to me. I use color and graphics to highlight different notes or to emphasize an idea.  I’m very visual in my style.  It occurred to me that I can’t do any of these things on my tablet very well.  Sure there is a sketching app on there, but I’d have to exit the notebook, open a second app, and then get frustrated with how slow the sketching occurs.  It isn't worth doing. 

By using this tablet to take notes, I was losing out on the experience in the meeting and missing opportunities to receive inspiration…I was missing a very human part of myself. (now let me state for the record, that I HATE meetings…I truly do…but I do the very best I can to get the most benefit that I can from them.)

I’m no weird kind of ‘Luddite’ or anything like that.  I fully embrace technology.  I’m of the opinion that if something can be handled via email, phone or a text, then by all means DON’T HAVE A MEETING OVER IT.  A the same time though, I think that there is something very legitimate to be said about how we are losing touch with reality because of our devices.  We are becoming less and less human.

In our efforts to become more ‘connected’ with the world about us…we are oddly becoming more and more ‘disconnected’ to the world.  Elder Christopherson referred to this in his Oct. 2012 conference talk saying that we are “ironically being of the world while not being in the world.” Meaning, that we are so removed from real life, and so absorbed in a virtual one that we are losing our ability to think, act and feel.

Studies have indicated that there are certain parts of our brains that are shrinking because of lack of use.  We don’t memorize things any more (all my phone numbers, address’ and contact info are on my phone) we don’t read maps, or remember directions (we have GPS) and we don’t even talk all that much (how many ‘phone calls’ are actually made with our ‘phones’?).

Now I see some studies that show that the simple act of handwriting and putting pen or pencil to paper is also a vital part of cognitive development…and it’s fading fast.  I know that cursive is no longer taught in my kids elementary school and handwriting and spelling are fading fast.  Keyboarding is taking over and with ‘spell-checker’ on all our programs, we don’t need to know how to spell (or proper grammar either).

Computers, phones, tablets…our devices are becoming our brains, and our brains are quickly fading.

Facebook, Linked-in, texting, virtual chatting...all are the preferred form's of communication...actual social skills are found to be lacking.

So what is a person to do? We are immersed in this technology aren't we? We practically need to have it to perform job functions and to be honest, we also need to have it to effectively serve in the Church.  Everything that the Church is doing is migrating to web based functions and the world of apps.  The new Youth Curriculum is all web based (no printed manuals) and the use of technology is driving development of Family History tools. Every building has become a Wi-Fi hot spot and even the General Authorities pack around iPad’s instead of Scripture Bags.

For starters, I believe that while we need these things, I think that they need to be put in their proper perspective.  For one thing, I think that we need to step back and realize that knowledge stored in a mobile device is not knowledge at all. 

The glory of God is intelligence.  We glorify God with the smarts we gain.  The more we learn, the more we develop our minds, the more we honor and glorify our Heavenly Father.  Consequently, the more we understand His mind and will.  If we want to be more like our Father in Heaven, then we need to develop our brains in a multitude of ways, to learn all we can.

Secondly, I think that we need to set limits on these tools.  I love the idea that my 14 year-old advised me with…he said “Dad, when you go to use the tablet, have a goal in mind that you want to accomplish by using it, then turn it off and put it down.”  Sage advice from an amazing young man.  All of these devices are simply tools.  Tools that we should use for our benefit and improvement, not simply because we are bored and need to be entertained.  Times like those are when we are certain to access information and activities that are surely detrimental to growth.

Lastly, get away from it! I mean, put the tech down and pick up a notebook, read a real book, learn to read a map, take a hike with that map, learn about the world around you and take your brain for a run around some cool knowledge. Disconnect from the tech, and re-connect to the world.

You’ll be a better man for it.

I’ve already added a notebook and a couple of pens to my case where I carry my tablet. Now that the snow has melted…it’s time to break out some maps.