Thoreau Was Right

“Men have become tools of their tools.” -Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau wrote those words a long time ago.  And I’m sure they were appropriate back then.  And we all know that they’re very appropriate now.  There’s a current cell phone ad that points this out brilliantly with people banging into each other and tripping over things while they’re staring incessantly at their cell phones.  When did it become acceptable to ignore people and become obsessed with electronics?

I don’t claim to be much better than anyone else when it comes to electronic addiction, but I’m getting a lot better.  I had to hit bottom before I was ready to come back up for air.  And that’s a lot what it’s like – fighting for air.  With every new gadget, app, and toy we’re fighting for air, also known as concentration.

It may serve us well to set boundaries for our tools.  We wouldn’t take a power drill into a restaurant or church and when we use our electronics in these places it often has the same effect as a power drill.  This may sound overly dramatic, but it’s not.  The fact that I have to explain this is proof in itself.

Remember that a tool is invented to simplify something.  When we cross the line from using a tool to being addicted to or dependent on it, we have become a tool of the tool and the tool is now using us.

Just as an experiment for the next week, don’t use your cell phone in your car.  Even with your bluetooth.  Don’t automatically look at your Blackberry when you’re in line at Starbucks.  Don’t play with your iPhone app under the table in business meetings.  Notice how this feels.  At first it may be uncomfortable.  This is an indication that you have become a tool of your tool.  The pain is a good sign.  It means that you’re aware of the situation – most people aren’t.

Regain some concentration.  Make the decision to own your tools instead of having them own you.  Now stop reading this and go play with your kids.  And not Wii or Nintendo.

Photo by fotosqrrl

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