The recent death of Steve Jobs — a man whose life touched millions, maybe billions of other lives in a significant and personal way — has made him an icon of rapid technological change.
The product(s) of his energy and inspiration are so penetrating and seemingly omnipresent and his tireless example so well documented that his death not only merited the attention of the masses, but also evidenced their deep attachment to Jobs, as many felt and expressed personal loss.
It’s hard to pinpoint the nature or measure the magnitude of Jobs’ contribution. Even so, it’s an undeniable fact that nearly every person belonging to humankind has been or will be significantly influenced by all the technological advancements. The uncertainty lies in the type of influence they will have on any given person.
The impact of technology is summed up in Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities. “We (have) everything before us (in the palm of our hand), we (have) nothing before us.”
Whether we have everything or nothing depends greatly on how we use or don’t use technology. It can be a tremendous resource, connecting us to all the information that might help us live informed and productive lives. On the other hand, it can completely overtake our time, drawing us away from our family, friends and community.
If we allow it to dominate our time and control our lives, we will, in the end, find that we have nothing before us. Sure, we might have the world at our fingertips, but the relationships we might have developed or the people we might have loved will be missing.
As we age, we will not think fondly of the thousands of hours we spent playing Angry Birds on our iPhones or the hundreds of posts we made on Facebook. With handheld technology, it’s never been easier to idle away our time. It’s never been more difficult to ration our time for people. However, in our old age, it is only our relationships that can make us truly happy, because they will feel permanent when we die, while everything else will die with us.
Striking the right balance can be tough. It’s essential to be connected. Facebook and Twitter accounts can help us make connections with friends or employers. As so many people exclusively use Facebook to announce events or other personal information, it might be the only way to stay in the loop. Additionally, the news media has migrated online, and we can get the information we need to be responsible citizens more quickly than ever. The Internet also facilitates a huge and efficient hub for commerce.
There’s no question the Internet is valuable, even essential. The key to being a master of the Internet and not its servant is to make goals for a life outside it. In fact, we should never view ourselves as having two lives. In other words, we should never have reason to think we have a technology life and another life. Our lives are meant to be lived through technology, but technology is meant to supplement our lives.
If we make goals for the people we love to be paramount, then technology will retain its proper place as a tool and not a life. Our relationships will flourish and we will be happy. Here’s to goals. Here’s to honoring Steve Jobs’ legacy as the creator of invaluable technologies through our resolve of using them wisely. Here’s to life. L’chaim!