Technology: Handle with care

Has technology really improved our lives? Yes, in many ways it has. For example, people’s lives are improved, or even saved, every day with cutting edge medical technology.

Thanks to GPS satellites, we can tell our vehicles where we want to go and they will lead us to our destination. That’s definitely an improvement over the wife trying to unfold a huge map while the husband hollers, “Which exit do I take? I need to know NOW! AARGH! We missed it!”

Smartphones are technological marvels. We’re walking around with more computer power in our pockets than was used to land men on the moon.

If I’m out and I need to communicate with someone right away, I use my phone to call or send a text message. I don’t have to hunt down a phone booth (remember those?) and hope I have a dime and that the receiver cord is still attached to the phone.

While new technology has in many ways made our lives easier and/or more enjoyable, technology also has its downsides. In some ways all this amazing technology has caused problems we never had back in the days of phone booths and fold-out maps.

While wondrous devices, smartphones are dangerous. For example, too many too-trusting folks have sent nude selfies to their boyfriends or girlfriends only to see them posted on the internet, where they are likely to remain forever.

Smartphones can even be deadly. The news is full of stories about people, often teens, injured or killed because they were text-ing while driving. We all know it’s dangerous, but I would wager most of us have done it at least once.

A new app allows a driver to take a selfie with the speed of their vehicle displayed on the photo. Teenagers driving as fast as they can while trying to take their own photos? What could possibly go wrong?

The tractor beam that draws us to our devices is strong. Studies have shown that some people develop physical and mental symptoms if separated from their phones for even a few minutes.

We’ve all been to stores or restaurants or sporting events where it seems nearly everyone there is constantly staring at their phones. I have a friend who does this at lunch. Sometimes I think I could tell him I’ve decided to run off with the circus, and he wouldn’t even look up.

Computers are great, until they’re not. Have you ever been in a checkout lane when the store’s computers go down? The business grinds to a halt, and employees have no idea what to do.

Credit cards are a convenient way to buy just about anything anywhere in the world without having to carry cash. Heck, you don’t even need to have enough money in the bank to cover it. The credit card company will gladly loan it to you.

According to The Motley Fool, the average credit card debt per household in the U.S. hit $7,879 in the fourth quarter of 2015, its highest level since 2009. Many people end up buried in credit card debt, struggling to make minimum payments that only increase their debt.

And every time you use your credit or debit card, you risk some hacker stealing your number and your identity.

Perhaps the technological development that affects us most is the internet, the information highway, where with the touch of a screen we can find out who played Ruby Sue in “Christmas Vacation” (Ellen Latzen). And social media allow us to stay in touch with friends old and new.

But the price for using the internet can be high. Social media accounts are hacked, identities are stolen and lives are ruined. Privacy is largely a thing of the past.

Every day reputations are ruined and jobs are lost due to careless comments or inappropriate photos. Cyber bullying has even driven people to suicide.

I’m not advocating we give up our technology. That will never happen. But I hope when we use all this technology, we remember to treat it like what it really is, a ticking bomb that, with even the slightest jostling, could blow up in our faces.