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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 12, 2006

The mixed blessing that is technology

By Michael C. DeMattos

I believe technology to be both profound and profane, part blessing and part curse. At this point, "technology" includes my computer, PDA, television, telephone, stereo, wristwatch, refrigerator, exercise bike, toaster oven and just about everything else in my home.

I suppose I'm not alone in my conflicted feelings. In fact, I've heard about a support group for those who bought into the promise of a better life through technology. My guess is that most group members tasted this digital milk and honey only to find that the expiration date has lapsed. To understand my conflict, I present my past two weeks. ...

Blessing: On Feb. 21, I received an e-mail from a college friend I had not heard from in nearly 10 years. It seems that he has gone through many life changes since last we talked, including a major move and a career shift. This, of course, explains the lost contact. Like me, he works at a university, and while doing a bit of research on the Internet, he came across my name. A few keyboard clicks later and he found my e-mail address. In fact, he found my life history. I am actually surprised that we still needed a conversation. In all seriousness, were it not for the Internet, this reconnection might never have happened.

Curse: On Feb. 24, I traded out my old cable box for the new DVR model. I can now watch one show while recording another without the hassle of a cassette tape. However, before that could happen I had to program my remote control. Sadly, I was unable to do this on my own. I tried introducing the two of them, my TV and my new cable remote, but they refused to hook up. I am not sure I buy into the heaven-and-hell myth, but if there is a hell, I am confident that it is a voice-activated answering system. To be fair, the cable company has the best support program I have ever encountered. That being said, if you need someone to coach you through a TV installation you know you live in a world gone mad.

Blessing: On Feb. 27, I received yet another curious e-mail, this time from my 81-year-old father. It turns out he has his own blog. For the past several years, he has been chronicling his youth in Depression-era Kaka'ako. He gave me his Web address and as I perused his page, tears ran down my face. I was happy that he found a venue to share his story, but more importantly, I was proud of the fact that at 81 he was still current.

Curse: Finally, on March 4, I went over to my father's house. The plan was to mow the lawn, watch a little golf and then whup him in a game of cribbage. The plan fell apart when Dad said that he needed to renew his antivirus subscription. It took four hours, three phone calls to technical support, two separate installations, and one sacrificed cribbage game, but we got it up and running.

I am blessed and cursed all at once. Technology connects me to so many of those who matter most and yet it drives me mad and sometimes drives me away from those I love. I suspect that I will spend the rest of my life dealing with microchips, digital signals and LCD readouts. It is my fate, but I know that I am not alone; there is always that support group for techno-losers.

Michael C. DeMattos is on faculty at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, School of Social Work. He lives in Kane'ohe with his wife, daughter and two dogs.