Dependency on technology could be hazardous

The other day, one of my friends posted a meme saying that if we went back to cursive writing and stick-shift cars, we could cripple an entire generation — a commentary on how today’s youth are dependent on technology for their daily lives.

It’s not hard to see what the meme was talking about. Home phones are becoming an endangered species. Cell phones are more convenient as we leave the house and go about our business. Students are on computers—some schools even issue a computer to every student. How many of us are on the internet daily, replying to emails and surfing Facebook to keep up with friends all across the world?

We’ve definitely become a society built on technology. Bankers use it. Farmers use it. Even mom-and-pop shops use it. Handwritten ledgers have been replaced by computer files on “the cloud.”

It’s definitely a convenience having this technology — until it stops working.

We found that out at the newspaper earlier this week when the internet that all our employees use suddenly made like Elvis and left the building. For most folks, it means getting behind on emails and not being able to see what goofy memes are being made by friends and friends of friends. For us, it was a major stumbling block to getting the paper out.

The internet went down, and that online filing system was inaccessible. That meant that a prolonged outage could have kept us from getting a story on the Shawano Common Council meeting.

The internet has allowed our reporters to access information online. Years ago, it would have required a trip to City Hall or the courthouse. Even high school sports statistics have permeated the web. Our sports editor, Morgan Rode, had some difficulty working on his weekly preview of high school football because he couldn’t access some of the statistics to explain the significance of individual games.

Then there was me. Before I came to the Leader, page layout had been done through desktop programs. Now, we have our pages “checked out” through the same online system where we file our stories. I couldn’t design the pages, but even if I could, I couldn’t access the stories and photos I needed to put on those pages. It was like being hungry for a hamburger, but the only visible burger joint is across a vast chasm.

You wouldn’t have known about this, if I hadn’t blabbed. Fortunately, the problem was fixed before it got too late in the evening, and we still managed to get the pages to Madison for printing on time. However, it was an interesting wake-up call on how we’ve become too dependent on technology.

Yes, it allows us to file stories quickly from remote areas and doesn’t require a drive back to the office — a good thing if we’re covering something out in Wittenberg or covering a local sports team competing in Green Bay. Yes, it allows to create informative pages filled with stories, photos and advertisements to inform and influence people at a faster speed than the old pasteboards newspapers used 25 years ago. However, the internet quickly went from help to hindrance when the plug was pulled.

The incident made me look at how much technology has entered my life, not only at work but at home. When I wake up in the morning, it’s a scan of Facebook and reading through my emails. I have subscriptions to a couple of newspapers, which I read online when they come out. I only have a cell phone, which is beneficial when something happens away from home and I need to call for help. Even the vehicle I drive has little sensors and other technological devices that give me advanced warning that something could go wrong.

We’ve become a need-it-now society, and technology has made that possible. We’ve become a culture of convenience as we connect with friends, shopping and information at the speed of light. However, it’s clear that technology doesn’t come with a guarantee, so perhaps that meme about cursive writing and stick-shift cars isn’t just funny — it’s a warning.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for The Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com