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Gadgets provide connectivity in many ways

Gadgets provide connectivity in many ways Gadgets provide connectivity in many ways

Don and I have just finished our morning ritual. We grab a cup of coffee, take a comfy seat and surf the world on my small connector — my cell phone — to the universe. It is all beyond his 89-year-old habit to figure out how to use what he calls “my thing.” So, I push the buttons and show him what is going on beyond the confines of our home.

It used to rankle me that he would not figure out how to use all the gadgets on his phone, but I now realize that, if he had mastered his apps, we would be looking at our phones independently without discussion of what we find. Our current set up offers us a lot of shared conversations, laughing and speculating about the world beyond our front door.

We usually start with a guess as to the current temperature and weather predictions for the coming hours. It gives us guidelines as to what we might do later in the day and what to wear when we do it. It is fun to check on the weather in places where friends and family live. We feel with them as they set forth into the conditions of a new day.

Next, we head to the news reports posted on my cell phone. Even though we aren’t as active out in the world as we used to be, we don’t need to feel left out. What happens around the globe is going to have an impact on us eventually. But, more importantly, we become aware of what is on the minds and in the actions of people around us. We are still in the mix of things and not just huddled up in comfort blankets that isolate. Knowing what is going on outside our immediate lives makes us aware we still have a purpose in our society. We still have something to contribute.

Our final stop is the most fun. We check on Facebook to see what our families and friends are up to. Don has four children, 13 grandkids and nine great-grandbabies. They live very active lives scattered in several states. It would be quite easy to miss everyday growth, changes and celebrations in these families. Instead, every day we see videos of lively babies doing baby things: eating, playing, sleeping, growing. We never miss a young ‘un’s first roll over or upright step. On our phones, through Facetime, we can interact in real time with both grandbabies and our kids. A splash in a plastic pool, a romp with a dog and a discovery of a new food are all shared with us. Children change so fast, and we are never out of the loop in seeing them do it.

We often say when separating from close friends that we will keep in touch. In the past, it was easy to lose connection as we became busy with changing activities. But, through social media, I have been able to stay in touch with past work associates who are close friends. My friend Katy takes me daily through urban Manhattan as she videos walks with her baby. She shares his experiences as he discovers nature in the middle of a city and the vast structures created around it. Jonathan, my past chief of staff, keeps me up to date with his posts of the East Coast “go getters” that share his days. And, then there are the magnificent photographs that Ira takes around the world on his travels as a housing consultant.

We always enjoy the lively banter between my three kids as they comment by text message on items in the news, their current household conditions and present thoughts both humorous and serious. It is a privileged peek at my offspring as adults.

I am aware that we are hearing a lot of discussion as to the unintended consequences of social media. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said that he created it to connect people. However, we have become aware that his creation has been open to abuses by groups trying to manipulate readers’ minds and actions. Russian forces have planted false comments on Facebook to undermine our democracy. Businesses have harvested data from Facebook to control our buying habits.

And, so it goes with the advancement of technology. Every good development has the potential for good use or bad. We never know all the implications during the development stage. We all need to be aware of the latest technological progress and how it impacts us, our communities and the greater interrelated universe. Quite an assignment for we mortals.

Everywhere I have traveled around the world, I found people using computers, be they in the form of a cellphone or a tuck-away laptop. It is very hard to feel disconnected and alone. It won’t be easy to keep up with the implications of being in contact and vulnerable to people and forces we cannot see, but it is paramount for a successful and sustainable planet. No time to sit idly by and miss out on the benefits of advanced technology. Nor is it wise to abandon personal responsibility for how technology is used in your life.

May we be like little children who examine, explore and push all the buttons to see and understand how these advanced forces affect us.