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SPOTLIGHT
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Technology starting to outsmart us

Published on -6/12/2013, 9:44 AM

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Last week, while in the waiting room for my physical therapy appointment for an aching hip, I observed a young family sitting together. There they were, mom, dad and young son, all with their heads down, looking at their smartphones.

That scene is all too commonplace these days, it seems. It just makes me wonder how "smart" we are. Are we letting technology take the place of talking?

Then I saw a segment on "CBS Sunday Morning" that only confirmed my long-held suspicions. As part of an experiment, a group of college students were to go 24 hours without their smartphones. Most of them couldn't do it; they had withdrawal symptoms.

The segment also showed videos of people so engrossed in their smart phones that one person walked into a fountain and another person walked off the platform and onto the subway tracks.

I admit I'm as guilty as the next guy for letting technology consume me. For me, it's not my smartphone, but my iPad. When I am home watching TV, it is right next to me. I can't help but check out my apps or favorite websites or email. Right now, during baseball season, the app for Major League Baseball has me hooked. I can continuously check on games in progress, see video highlights and up-to-date boxscores.

Technology even spreads to our TV sets and game consoles. Netflix makes it ever so easy to watch any movie we desire.

Why go to a game when I can watch it on my high-definition TV? I even have one of those new cable boxes where I can record five shows at once. Five -- count 'em, five -- shows at once. Not that I ever will. But if I ever do need to, I can.

Then there is social media, which that young family in the waiting room probably was involved with. Gotta check Twitter or Facebook.

Or maybe they were seeing their pics on Instagram. Or maybe getting around to watching the season finale of "Modern Family." Or maybe they were texting what they had for lunch.

Apple just came out this week with the latest bells and whistles for its iPhones and iPads. I marveled at the updates before catching myself. Did I really need it? Of course not. It makes one wonder: How do you take advantage of technology without it taking advantage of you, taking over your life?

Perhaps we should all just make the attempt to use technology and social media as a helpful tool and not let it consume us. It's OK to use that iPad app for Skype to see your Aunt Edith in California. It's OK to use Facebook to show the pics from your son's first birthday party. Just don't go through life with your head down, forever checking YouTube.

Maybe we should use technology to take the first step toward really re-connecting with people again. Use it to get together with those friends and loved ones we have put off seeing in person.

Get together. Talk -- not text -- with one another. What a concept.

So, maybe the next time I am in the doctor's office, I will see fewer people with their heads down in their own little world.

Instead, they will be seeing the rest of the world.

Randy Gonzales is a reporter

at The Hays Daily News.

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