A Tale of Technology (and Connection)
Do you get nostalgic when it comes time to replace or discard old technology? Have you ever been caught off-guard by your own feelings when you encounter old tech and gadgets? And does your answer have anything to do with counseling?
When I celebrated my 50th birthday, friends fêted me with a party that included homemade, allergen-free food, and reminders of my childhood. including an electronic memory game called, Simon. Soon, I was reminiscing about everything from rotary phones with exceptionally long telephone cords to the different PC models that would have been the backdrop of every geeky kid’s experience in America. Where were you when the TRS-80 (later called the Model I) was revealed on August 3, 1977?
If you have lived longer than forty years, the amount of technology that has come and gone is truly astonishing. That fact was made clearer this weekend when I damaged my iPhone with some unintentional exposure to water. A temporary shutdown was a perfect excuse to look at the new phones in the local Apple store (FWIW, I have had all kinds of phones, including a Blackberry that I loved to bits, so don’t assume I’m an Apple fangirl just because I have a MacBook, a MacBook Air, a Mac Mini, an iPad, and an iPhone), and after perusing the options, I decided to recycle my old phone and lease a new one.
Lease? But why? Because the salesman said what I already knew to be true: in one to two years, the technology will have changed enough that you will want a new device. Now, you don’t have to use an item until it breaks; you can recycle it, and choose the next one you want.
As I looked at all the options and colors that were launched after my iphone SE model in March 2016, I narrowed it down to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Yet I surprised myself as I picked them up. My brain kept yelling like a goat, “These phones are too big!” I might as well have been wearing those words on a giant T-shirt.
I found myself complaining. Too big. Not elegant. It’s a slab. It won’t fit conveniently in my hydration vest pocket (women are usually encouraged to run or cycle with their phones available for emergencies). I whined and whined and whined some more.
Yet as I stood there in the store, watching other customers buzzing around these devices like bees to a flower, I thought about what I was really whining about: change. This thing will change me. And I must change or die.
In a post on NPR.com, Harvard professor Calestous Juma reminded people about their attachment to devices: “So when [the technology] goes extinct, there’s also some sense of feeling of empathy that something has been lost that’s bigger than just the device itself.” Well, the smartphone wasn’t going away, but my model SE was; Apple is no longer promoting this phone model, as it has three other iterations it has made that left the SE in its wake. Essentially, my old phone is facing extinction.
Recycling my phone that was but a year old felt not like an act of rebellion or a mark of courage, but an acquiescence to a familiar, trudging march. The fact is I am used to my phone and its small footprint. I like how inconspicuous it is compared to other items that might be on a table. The new phones are bigger than a drink coaster; they announce their presence with a physical thump. For the first time, I was choosing to own something I would hold in my hand more often than almost anything else I owned, and it was bigger than my hand!
Instead of feeling delighted and gleeful about purchasing a new device, I felt resistant. I didn’t want to get a new phone. I wanted to use my old phone until it was deader than dead. I wanted to resist the consumerism and the grab-and-go culture of the day; I wanted that water sucked out of my old phone, and I wanted to power that thing up and keep humming along, business as usual. I let out a low harumph.
“Take a look at this feature,” says the Apple salesperson. And then he shows me a video of the power of the dual camera, picture depth, and the screen resolution. And I imagine myself video chatting with relatives, sharing photo memories with friends who have been too ill to travel, and using my device as I always have: to help me deliver the best professional counseling services that I can.
It was always function first, form second. And yet, when we do well functionally, isn’t it funny how we’ll get nit picky with the form, revealing our own emotional attachments to objects, while what we’re really struggling with is how to better manage our emotions to people and relationships
Why did we buy smartphones in the first place? For the connection. Why do we believe counseling works? It’s the relationship — the connection — that heals.
As Seattle Direct Counseling passes through its first month of online and telephonic counseling and coaching services, I think we’ve all been surprised by both perceived loss and unexpected relief. I prepared myself — I really did! — for the initial grief that comes with transitioning my practice from a routine and a way of being that I have carried out faithfully for over 17 years.
What none of us could have known was how much relief there could be on the other side of this transition. The very technologies that were once so unknown, relegated to projected fables of loneliness and isolation, are now the ones that can be used to bring healing and connection, even as the city I live in becomes gridlocked in traffic, due to the high numbers of new workers moving to Seattle every day.
Clients show me their pets, their homes, and their way of life. The microcosm that they were once limited to describing in words can now be more easily shown to me in real time.
By the time I got home with my new device, I was already loading it up with new apps and testing out new features. In less than 12 hours, the reason for purchasing such a smart device around in the first place was about to stand up to its first test: will it facilitate my connections with my clients, or will it hinder them in any way?
Judging by the fact that no one noticed a change (i.e technology is most noticeable when something fails), I have quickly shed any misgivings about the new phone. Onwards and upwards!
Please check the schedule for July and August, as our annual vacation is approaching. If you would like to get onto the schedule, please call or email to set up your consultation now. If you have never tried online counseling, let me show you how easy and convenient it is by conducting a complimentary consultation on the confidential and HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform designed for therapists and medical providers like myself. It’s free, and it’s easy to use.