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Are you using Technology as a Toy or a Tool?

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Are you using Technology as a Toy or a Tool?

I grew up in the age before cell phones and was not introduced to computers until college.  I got interested in computers right away.  I hung out in the computer labs and was soon teaching others how to use them.  I went on to have a career as a network engineer because technology has always fascinated me.  Even so technology to me has always been a tool that I use to communicate, create, calculate, and design.  It has been the way I’ve made my living.  Working with technology has been a passion of discovery and learning.  I’ve taught myself most of it.  I have some formal training too however this was mostly to appease those that prize certificates over real knowledge.

Along the way I’ve seen the way others use technology too.  This is especially true for my two sons.  Whereas I’ve used technology to create things such software, networks, websites, and applications. My sons have used technology to consume.  They know little if anything about the inner workings of cell phones, websites, mobile applications, and software.  Instead they simply consume the creations of others.  They spend hours of time on Facebook, YouTube, and dozens of other social applications.  This time if spent acquiring knowledge on the Internet could lead to countless opportunities.  They could learn software programming or computer networking.  All this knowledge is available for free on the Internet.  Instead they watch YouTube videos of people doing “stupid” stuff that usually results in a crash of some kind – FAIL videos.  In fact acting “stupid” on the Internet seems to be the highest use of the technology for some.

The information super highway is coming to a standstill due to a glut of triviality.  The YouTube videos make heroes of those that fail at something in an entertaining way and Facebook is full of pictures of what people are having for dinner, or quoting some saying they stole from another place and posted as if it were they’re own.  Basically people have begun to treat technology as a toy instead of a tool.  This is especially true of the young.  In fact their first experiences with technology may have been by playing a game on a computer, tablet, or cell phone.  So it’s no wonder that computer devices are mostly used for amusement.  The gaming market for technology is exploding.  Games are some of the most popular applications on mobile devices as well in the home.

Let’s be honest computer games are great.  I know that I’ve spent many hours playing multi-player games as well as simple card games.  While I was in my thirties I joined a clan and competed against other clans in Counter-Strike.  While I loved the thrill of competition and amusement I knew that no battle, victory, or prize earned on-line ever meant anything in the real world.  The hours, days, and weeks that I spent gaming in my virtual life I could never recover as productive time to build a real kick-ass life.  Ultimately for me a real kick-ass life is more important so I stopped gaming altogether for a long time.  Gaming had become a way that the technology was controlling me instead of me using technology as a tool to get what I really wanted.  I really wanted my own success business that leveraged technology.  I wanted to create with technology not just be a consumer of it.

To a consumer of technology life is a rat race.  You are a slave to it.  You are always upgrading your devices to the next level to stay ahead.  You are on Facebook or YouTube for hours on end living your virtual life.  You play games or watch videos every night.  You feel the need to instantly respond to every text message that arrives, even if it comes in at 3:00am.  It’s exhausting….  Ask yourself, are you able to unplug or turn off you phone?  Can you not check your email for days?  Can you wait to check that text message at lunch?  Will anyone really miss your daily (or hourly) Facebook posts?

I’m not suggesting a complete disconnect from technology.  In fact, I use it almost daily unless I’m on vacation or out living my real life.  However, my approach is to use it as a tool to get what I want or to be creative.  I’ve found that I’m really good at applying technology to solve problems.  I’ve done it for dotcoms, airplane companies, and the US Navy.  The creative of applying technology has always lured my interest.  I love to learn and I love to teach.  My advice with technology is to use it as a tool and less as a toy.  Make sure that you are controlling it and that it is not controlling you.

by Joe Parker

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