Technology and Terriers

Technology and Terriers
By   Karen September 23, 2014

Technology and Terriers

First, the back story….a certain fifth grader pesters her parents for a little dog. The little girl grows up, moves away. The little dog stays home, grows old. After sixteen years, the dog says goodbye after a life well lived and well loved. Mom, who inherited the dog, describes the passing in the post-modern village square of Facebook.

I am thinking about the personal events in my small life over the past few days, as well as big thoughts about the way things are. I see a context of my very private connections to friends and family in the midst of some much larger conversations. I did not think that the loss of a pet would offer such enlightenment about technology.

For a while now, I have been following and participating in the arguments and struggle to find the right volume of technology and media in my life. Like many folks, measured in two dog years, I went from having one family phone to carrying the world’s depository of information around on my iPhone 5, plus a laptop, plus cable. 24/7 connectivity became the new normal. A creeping, artificial urgency and primacy became a working fact of life. In that time, I slowly started to behave like someone on a heart transplant list, fearful that I might miss a call or text or email of life saving importance.

The insidious creep of that full spectrum engagement resulted in predictable backlash and cynicism. The phone that liberated me from the house started to follow me like some sort of unwanted body part. I was shocked to find that being able to talk to anyone, anytime means that you can talk to anyone, anytime. As ridiculous as it sounds, I started to resent a few ounces of plastic and some micro-circuits. I know I am not alone on this swing of the pendulum. And then Sweeney, the little dog of the back story, died and I posted.

Turns out the little toy fox terrier that had been a part of our landscape for sixteen years had a lot of friends. Friends from over a timeline of 50 plus years posted condolences and caring messages. People who never met her, people who don’t particularly care for dogs, people who I have not laid eyes on in decades, reached out – and this was all for a little dog.

So my cynicism about a technology and social media invasion and too much connectivity has a new data point. I received a new providential reminder about the old currency of human kindness. This seems to be a lesson that needs repeated. With perhaps a few arguable exceptions, technology is value-neutral. If it is invading your life as it was mine, that’s your problem and it’s ridiculously easy to fix. Just don’t throw the puppy out with the bath water.

I’m not claiming to have invented fire here. As my friend Mike says, “the problems of the world are not about what we do not know, they about what we do know and refuse to practice”. Our ability to communicate instantaneously over time and space is quite the miracle and we can immediately set about to ruin it. Or we can use it to strengthen our bonds.
For sixteen years, I had a little zen master teaching me how to be a great pack member and she never uttered a word. She lived acutely and effortlessly by example. Used with the right intentions, technology offers extraordinary tools that will make anybody’s pack better. So, before I complain again about technology invading my life, I will stop and ask how it can help my pack. Sweeney would have wanted it that way.

Checking the gauges,