I remember about 10 years ago overhearing a mid level management executive in his 40s talking to his colleagues. He smugly predicted that their “generation” of executives would be the last toget by without becoming computer and internet literate. He made no effort to even inform himself about what new communications were coming down the pipe with the computer age, even though his company offered classes and training and free laptops to those who would take the initiative to learn.I am not surprised that he is no longer a mid level executive with a Fortune 500 company. Did his resistance to learn about and even embrace the computer age cost him his job? Hard to say. When companies are downsizing and trying to run cost effective organizations, I’m sure they must look to a person’s willingness to keep up with new technologies as well as their skill sets when making the difficult decisions about cutting positions and reorganizing.
For years, as computers, email, and internet connections have made huge impacts on everyone’s lives, Unitarian Universalists have been struggling with how to integrate these new technologies into their faith communities. Not so long ago, it was argued that it was a matter of justice and equality to provide hard copy as well as electronic communications and documents. People argued that not everyone could afford a computer or had the resources necessary to gain computer skills. But as time marches on, we find that people are now replacing the phrase “give me a call” with “send me an email.” People have access to email and the internet at work, school, public libraries, internet cafes and often, in their homes. Now, emails are used to send out agendas for committee meetings, send in newsletter submissions, and broadcast announcements.
Do I think that computers will totally replace paper and pen? No – I hope not. There is something wonderful about writing a note to a visitor or a thank-you to a volunteer. And I know that children love receiving a postcard in the mail outlining an upcoming Sunday School class. I also know that just as with other multimedia genres and public places, we need to supervise and guide our children through computer and internet experiences.
But, I am embracing this technology. This year, I even got a MP3 player. Just as with other areas of my life, I try to live in balance.
Balance is not always easy to find in this world of media streaming into our lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When I moved into my current home, I “had” to get satellite TV because I was too far from a tower to receive decent signals from local TV stations. The second week I had the dish, I found myself in a daze at 2 a.m. watching RFD TV. It was a show of a polka festival from New Ulm, Minnesota. Having one time lived in Mankato, Minnesota and indulging in the “John Deere Bandwagon” a time or two as a goofy college student, I found myself watching this obscure polka show, thinking I might see someone that I recognized doing the Shoddish. It was an ah-ha moment for me. A literal wake-up call to account for the precious time that was slipping through my life.
I know that it’s easy to have one of my electronic devices steal my time. So, I make deals with myself. I’ll spend as much time surfing the web or watching TV as I spend outdoors, or on an art project, or journaling, or reading a book. And when I am home, I will not multi-task. It works for me. I want to embrace the new world that is knocking at my door, but I want to stay connected to people, nature and my spirit.
These days, I ask people how they like to communicate. I don’t spend as much time on the phone as I used to, and I don’t use as much paper and postage as before. But the important thing for me is, being present. Being present on the web, being present by phone or in person. How would you like to communicate with me?
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See you in church - Lori