Paul J. Scheck, Esq.
The Briefs, March 2014
Technology Age: "The Best of Times and The Worst of Times"
I didn’t grow up in a house that was particularly cutting-edge when it came to the newest technology. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy our 8-track tape player, our Atari video game system, and our Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack. For my generation, however, the use of technology turned from an option into a requirement, both in school and beyond. As a freshman in college in the 1980s, it was still big news when someone in my dorm got their own computer, as most of us went to the “computer lab” to type up our papers. Today, it would be unthinkable to send a child off to college without a laptop, fully equipped with all the latest software that I couldn’t have envisioned while working away on my Tandy 1000.
In the face of these changing times, the OCBA has taken numerous steps to stay on the cutting edge of technology, thereby providing the best benefits and services to its members. We have better communication tools such as e-mail blasts, on-line networking, and CLE opportunities and a more user-friendly website. Rather than just “surfing” the web for fun or general information, people now visit websites for specific information. We are seeking to deliver on those expectations by constantly updating our website and adding new features such as the “OCBA Store.” Through this feature, our members can register for lunches and social events, order CLE’s and supporting materials, and even register for our Bench Bar Conference on April 11th (Hint! Hint!). We hope our members will take advantage of and enjoy this new technological addition to our website.
Yet as we try to stay relevant with the advancing world around us, a part of me feels that we are losing something in the process. The USA Today dubbed 2010 as "the year we stopped talking to one another." It is estimated that 93% of Americans now use cell phones or wireless devices, and one-third of those same people use smart phones. In other words, most of us spend our days walking around with our noses buried in our cell phones, iPhones, BlackBerrys, or Galaxy phones. While we are doing that, the price we pay is that we are tuning out the people who are actually in the same room or at the same dinner table with us, often without being aware of it.
Little by little this technology seems to be subtly destroying the meaningfulness of interactions we have with one another. Instead of spending time in person with family, friends, and clients, we just call, text, or instant message them. It may seem simpler to communicate in these ways, but we ultimately end up seeing our friends and clients face to face a lot less and miss out on the rewards and blessings of simply “hanging out” and sharing time with them. It is a shame that more of us do not handwrite our “thank you” notes or invitations anymore, but rather opt for the quicker, but much less personal option of an email or a text. I would encourage each of us to take a step back and reassess how we interact with one another.
I was reminded of how wonderful these times of personal interaction can be at a recent campout with my son. As we sat around the campfire, several of the boys took turns telling scary or goofy stories, each one trying to surpass his predecessor in shock value. We then had the boys take turns in being part of a “progressive story,” with each boy adding his own twist to the storyline the previous boy had created. It is not often that Sasquatch ends up being the hero of a story, but the boys managed to pull it off. What impressed me the most, however, was the ability of the boys to verbally express themselves by using creative twists, while laughing with each other and encouraging one another, an experience I will not soon forget. It was reassuring to see that human interaction and dependence is still alive and well!
I sincerely believe that technology provides numerous wonderful advantages, and as a bar association we will continue to implement new technology into all that we do. At the same time, however, I hope that we will all resist the urge to sacrifice the value of social interaction that we all need as human beings. So, in the month ahead, spend some quality time personally interacting with your family, friends, and clients, and while you are with them, turn off your technology. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Orange County Bar Association The Briefs, March 2014, Vol. 82, No. 3. All rights reserved.