Ethics for Everyone

Moral wisdom for the modern world

iPads, Cell Phones, and Resistance

New Technology and Dragging My Feet

Photo: Ben Atkin, Some Rights Reserved
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vote_zaphod_beeblebrox/4515861912/sizes/s/in/photostream/
I was looking through my personal blog today, and discovered the following that I wrote nearly three years ago:

"Is something wrong with me? I genuinely do not care about the newly introduced iPad. Genuinely. Do. Not. Care. However, if the past record of how I respond to technology holds true, I will care in a few years. I finally bought my first cell phone this past year (Summer 2009). So I was very slow to the table on that one, but it is because I hate talking on the phone, in part. When I first heard of the iPod, I thought it sounded kind of cool but had no interest in actually owning one. A few years later, I purchased an iPod Nano. When I first learned what a blog was, my initial thought was "What is the point?" Next, both Facebook and Twitter first appeared to me to be goofy and a waste of time as well. And they might be, but I use Facebook to connect with old friends and Twitter for more public stuff. And our family just got satellite tv with DVR. So maybe in 2013, I will be in the market for an iPad, provided the world does not come to an end in 2012."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

A little over a year ago, I quit Facebook (see here and here), but I still make use of Twitter. I carry my cell phone with me wherever I go. And today, my iPad 3 is scheduled to be delivered to my home. I want to try to go paperless, or at least close to it, in my teaching and speaking engagements. I've spent some time reading about how professors use the iPad in the classroom and for their research, and I think some of these applications will work for me. And of course there are just some fun things to do on an iPad.

I wonder, as a philosopher, why I have the pattern of reacting negatively to a new technology, and then in many cases ultimately adopting it. I'm sure some of my fellow bloggers here at Psychology Today who study this sort of thing could offer some insight if we talked about it. I think part of it is a reaction to the increasing intrusion of technology in our lives. As I watch my students walk across campus with tunnel vision directed at their smartphones or on Facebook during class, I wonder what the end result will be of such constant engagement with digital technology and digital media. And when I see fans at major sporting events looking at their phones instead of the game, I wonder why they are not fully present in the real, rather than virtual, moment. Another reason for my pattern of negatively reacting to new technology is that when I hear about something over and over again, I resist the onslaught of advertising and so at least for a while refuse to buy what is being sold, watch the popular tv show, etc.

In the final analysis, I think there are times when my initial reaction to new technologies is irrational, and this bothers me as someone who prizes rational thought. But the best course of action, for anyone, is to think through the ways one might use a particular technology, and then decide whether it has a role to play in one's life. We should avoid "keeping current" with the latest devices for the sake of being current, but we should also avoid resisting for the sake of resisting.

I'm on Twitter (still!): @michaelwaustin

Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University.

more...

Subscribe to Ethics for Everyone

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?