Louisville Medicine Volume 62, Issue 8 - Page 10

REFLECTIONS TECHNOLOGY, OUR INEVITABLE PARTNER Teresita Bacani-Oropilla, MD I n the year 2004, during a prolonged visit to the Philippines, a popular habit astounded my husband Ric and me. It seemed everywhere we went, the malls, parks, hospitals, churches and homes, people were holding on to a cell phone. Their users were either talking or texting or interacting with somebody else on the other end of the line. We thought then this was rather rude. Although that was beginning to be true when we left Kentucky, admittedly not to the same extent, we had to get used to the new norm, i.e. caregivers talking over our heads to each other about Ric’s care, (at least, the messages had utilitarian value), friends and family attending to unfinished business in our presence, making or changing plans, etc. Now, back in Kentucky 10 years later with the phenomenon of Facebook, E-mail, Skype, FaceTime, and cameras attached to phones, those days were puny by comparison. Not only do we talk and text, but we now get a peek into the private thoughts and lives of people, young and old. Granted that most of this information is shared willingly, some bits are inadvertently made public through miscommunication and betrayal of trust, causing recriminations and even lawsuits. Gone are the days when we lauded airmail and telegrams as the wondrous, fast, and convenient means of communication that would change the then “modern” world. They may have, but they are now relegated to snail mail. To now hear somebody’s impatient need to upgrade their computer because it is too slow, it would seem we live in another planet and age, but we do not. These things have come to pass within our lifetimes. How have these bewildering innovations impacted our lives? For one, in a modern technological setting such as ours, it has changed the pecking order of teaching. Witness a respected grandmother being taught by an experienced 8-year-old on how to manipulate a computer. When the former asks for clarification, her 5-year-old brother who is nearby, pipes up, “Grandma, you are not paying attention!” Tarnished is the image of the, until then, infallible arbiter of disputes and the solver of most ills. The computer did it! In Grandma’s mind however, she can hear the kindergartners’ teach8 LOUISVILLE MEDICINE er say the same words to her 5-year-old charges who are learning the basics of the new technology. So he must just be a good learner, Grandma decides, and takes no offense. For another, when one learns how to press the proper buttons, one has access to all kinds of knowledge one desires, true or false. Our curious, savvy, and precocious kids can also push buttons that reveal titillating, inappropriate, and sometimes taboo material and can fall prey to those who would take advantage of them. This applies to vulnerable adults too. How many people have fallen for scams and been scared out of their wits and thus parted from their savings? Stealing from others, either in paltry sums, or in the big time category, has become rife, hitting even national commercial chains. Besides, who would have thought even one’s identity can be stolen?! On the other hand in this age of mobility where families, loved ones, and co-workers are dispersed to places far and near, these gadgets are the means to hold on to each other, To wit: To show off the progress of one’s newborn grandchild in New York while at lunch break in a Kentucky cafeteria. • To consult on a head injury X-ray in an emergency room in a Rocky Mountain Park clinic from a Denver office. • To reassure an anxious patient via tele-med about the proper dose of her medications. • To monitor if the new baby sitter followed instructions from your seat at the Palace Theatre. • To check if your young one is in his dorm at 3 a.m. • To let your toddler flying kiss your spouse in a hotel room in Texas. • To remind yourself to be sure you tune in on that interactive conference at 10 a.m. • To send one’s love on Valentine’s Day but with one big flaw, one can’t feel the warmth and comfort of a big hug! Like everything else that man has invented, there are plusses and minuses. We might as well get with it! Note: Dr. Oropilla is a retired psychiatrist.