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Life has shown me that almost every invention or new discovery has its good points and its bad ones. When the telephone was invented, it was a great boon to communication for it saved time in getting a message through to someone. As people have moved farther and farther away from relatives and friends, it enables them to cut distances and time down tremendously.
However, the telephone, when it first appeared was limited so that people were connected on “a party line”— the “party” being a dozen other people and the line was not private! Your neighbors could listen in on your conversations (without letting you know). Frequently, you had to wait for the “long talkers” to finish before you could use the line. Of course, you could butt in when it was critical and ask them to let you make a call.
Now, we take the phone for granted and think that we cannot live without it. The telephone has evolved into the cell phone with all of its ramifications. That is a whole other story. (More on that in a moment.)
Then came the automobile. Oh, what fun! One could retire the horses and buggies and get places a whole lot faster. It started out a very simple machine that turned our daily lives upside down. It was and is wonderful to be able to travel and explore our country and beyond. There are so many wonderful sights to see.
One-car families increased to two- or three-car families. The negative side soon arrived with fatal accidents growing from few to thousands. The price for cars began modestly but with all the attachments and devices grew quickly.
Consider the airplane. For centuries it was only a fantasy or a dream. Few could think of it as a reality. Today, when I think about the huge planes carrying hundreds of people and tremendous weights, it still seems like a total impossibility and utterly amazing. In the beginning, flying was an adventure and generally fun. Now, instead of a delightful dream flight with delicious meals, it has become a nightmare. Airplanes not only have made fast travel possible, they have brought crashes and heartbreaks. The saddest and worst thing is that airplanes have made warfare more cruel and horrendous.
Inventions allow us to communicate in a vast array of methods. Earlier, I mentioned the telephone has been a very good thing. This has been expanded to become more of a game than an essential, although I suspect that most who use them would seriously disagree with me. What they have become does not enhance the communication of ideas and the building of good relationships, but rather cuts people off from one another. People are so devoted to the device that they are not looking at people face to face, or paying any attention to them. In fact, the smartphone has become addictive.
When I spend time in a doctor’s waiting room, three out of four persons waiting are using some device and not even talking to their companion. I really cringe when I see very small children playing with them and ignoring others. It can encourage rudeness and put good social skills at great risk. These smartphones, which can do so many interesting things — take pictures, record conversation, be a source of unlimited information — can become addictive.
I am a bit leery of any device that is smarter than I am! Oh well, that’s enough of my prejudices.
Ruth Justice Moorer, a resident of Las Cruces since 1996, is a former public-school science teacher and United Methodist pastor.