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The dark side of technology - April Avison

I used a payphone last week for the first time in years. My cellular phone, which also functions as my home phone, wasn't working and I felt completely disconnected from all of society. I placed 35 cents into the payphone and was baffled when an operator told me to "please deposit 15 cents." When did the price of payphones go up to 50 cents? I had no idea.

It made me wonder what we ever did before such technological advances as cell phones and e-mail. You couldn't call home from the grocery store and ask a spouse if he needed you to pick up milk. You couldn't find friends at a massive outdoor arena simply by saying you'd call when you got there. You couldn't call the office to explain your tardiness while stuck in traffic.

And now we've become so dependent on these things that without the use of one for just one day, it's almost as if we can't function at all.

And e-mail is perhaps the worst thing we could possibly do to our brains. It seems as though when we turn on our computers, all the rules of grammar go out the window.. Educated people have become so lazy when they type an e-mail message that they use constant abbreviations and misspelled words. Some even find it too challenging to bother capitalizing the word at the beginning of a sentence or using punctuation at the end. And that's only the ones who bother using complete sentences.

There's also a pretty good argument that our use of e-mail has taken away the wonderful art of letter writing. E-mails can be so impersonal – most people don't even sign their names to e-mail messages. We don't write letters to our grandmothers or sweethearts or old friends anymore – we just e-mail, or leave a voice mail. There will be no wrinkled, yellow old letters in a shoebox to show the children of the next generation.

And now it's become acceptable to do just about anything by e-mail: send birthday cards or thank-you notes. People send birth announcements and photos by e-mail; soon they'll be sending computerized wedding invitations.

Although there are certainly some conveniences that have been brought about by the age of technology, there is also a down side. We don't want to become robots, so rigid and programmed that we don't bother to reach out to one another in the good old-fashioned way, by taking the time to visit or make a phone call, or even send a letter.

April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at aavison@henryherald.com.