I was having trouble last week with my banking card. So I decided to call the bank and find out what the problem was. I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and called the bank. I was prepared to sit through several minutes of listening to music while on hold, perhaps an endless round of pushing numbers until I got someone to speak with. Imagine my surprise when after three rings an actual person answered the phone and then proceeded to help me with my problem. No waiting on hold. I was impressed.
When the culture around us changes gradually we don’t often notice the differences that are occurring. Remember, way back in the late 1980s, it was considered cutting edge to have an answering machine in your home. Of course, it was attached with many wires to your land line which probably had a rotary dial. In the early 1990s we had a friend who got ‘caller ID’ on his land line. He could decide whether or not to take your call. We were all amazed at technology.
The other night my son and I ‘rented’ a movie on iTunes. I tried to explain to him that we used to have to go out to a store and rent a VHS tape. We’d have to rewind it before returning it to the store the next day. He didn’t really understand what I was talking about. Kids these days!
Things have changed. We feel so much more advanced now. Always connected to the internet we check Facebook, Twitter and our email multiple times throughout the day. We have in-depth conversations with people around the world while sitting quietly in the same room with our family members.
I’m not going to complain about technology today or scold people for using devices which have become so common. But my encounter with the bank reminded me that it was nice talking to an actual person instead of dealing with a computer screen. In the 1980s, as new technology was taking off, John Naisbitt coined the term “high tech, high touch.” Among the many things that this phrase has come to mean is the idea of finding balance between the high tech skills that are necessary for life and the high touch skills that are essential for enjoying life.
Naisbitt understood that the very technology which was intended to free us from certain tasks could end up enslaving us. With great foresight he argued that we need to be involved in activities that keep us healthy, creative, energized and in relationship with other people.
The prophet Isaiah asked an insightful question:
But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it?
Is the saw greater than the person who saws?
Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it?
Can a wooden cane walk by itself? (Isaiah 10:15 NLT)
In other words, people are more important than the tools they use. Advances in technology have always been with us and will continue to be. But technology is meant to serve us. Too often we find ourselves serving the technology, tied to our devices and desperate for a digital fix. Finding the balance isn’t just helpful – it is essential. Our spiritual life and development depends on it. We must stay connected to God and the people around us in a meaningful way. The world has lots of ‘high tech’; what it needs now is some ‘high touch.’