PAINTER: Are we obsessed with our electronic gadgets?

The vehicle in front of me was moving well under the speed limit. The driver suddenly turned right without using his turn signal.
Jul 23, 2014


I glanced at the driver as I drove by and noticed that he was talking on a cellphone. He obviously was not paying attention to his driving.

You see this all the time.

Have we become so obsessed with our gadgets that we lose focus on what we should be doing?

We probably have, in my opinion.

I admit that I fall into the category of being obsessed with my gadgets. We spend hours upon hours fidgeting with our gadgets. We take our cellphones everywhere. The ringers sometimes go off at the most inappropriate times, such as Broadway plays.

At a local fitness center, I even see people riding exercise bikes while talking on their cellphones. Others scroll through their iTunes before doing an exercise. We’re constantly checking our emails and Facebook accounts without giving much though about our obsessions.

As an older-generation man, I remember what life was like without all the electronic gadgets. I have written before how I was 8 years old before my family had our first TV set. I didn’t start using a computer until my 40s. We didn’t have a smartphone until my 60s.

When I was in the Navy, we wrote letters to communicate with our parents and friends. Now servicemen and women can communicate via email and through social media.

I certainly realize that our culture has changed and that we all must adapt. We have HDTVs, laptop computers and tablets, iPhones and iPads, and an assortment of other gadgets to help us communicate and to entertain us.

Electronic gadgets have made our lives much easier. Parents feel more comfortable knowing that they can keep track of their kids via cellphones.

We can subscribe to TV services that provide us with hundreds of channels. I find it hard to resist having numerous sports channels.

Most of us watch a lot of TV. According to data from Nielsen Research, the average American watches more than four hours of TV each week. I fall in that category. On weekends, I watch TV even more, especially during the football season.

Of course, there are some families that have cut ties with TV. I know of one family that lives life without a TV. They prefer that their kids read books and spend more time talking to their friends and family members instead of being glued to the TV for hours.

If we’re not watching TV, then we’re spending a lot of time on our computers. We now can do so much online. We can catch up on the latest sports scores and news on the Grand Haven Tribune’s website. In fact, we get updates on breaking news 24 hours a day and seven days a week. We can purchase goods online and do our banking online.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average American household now spends $1,300 a year on consumer electronics such as HDTVs, cellphones and computers. And the market keeps on growing.

But there is a downside to this as well.

All those TVs, computers, digital cameras and printers we purchase eventually become obsolete, and we replace them with more-advanced gadgets. So, what happens to the old gadgets? Some are just thrown away.

This creates electronic waste. “TVs and computer monitors account for nearly one-half of our e-waste,” according to an article written online by Holly Mangan. She wrote that only 17 percent of the discarded TVs are recycled.

Yes, our electronic gadgets have dramatically changed our lives. We get much entertainment and pleasure from our electronic gadgets, but we also should be aware of the pitfalls from owning them. For example, talking on a cellphone while driving probably is not a good idea.

We should also keep in mind the need to spend quality time with our family members. Sometimes, it might be a good idea to turn off that TV or computer and spend time talking.

And, if you are going to discard a gadget, be sure that it goes somewhere to be recycled.

The electronic age is good, but we also must be wary of its dangers.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist



Basically my only electronic gadgets are an iPhone 4s (no need for the latest and greatest when the 4s does just fine as a phone/internet tether for the ipad), an old iPad 3, Panasonic Lumix LX7 (sold off all my old DSLR gear including a nice set of Canon L glass), Garmin Edge 810, Fluke 179 multimeter, and a crappy old netbook I use for programming Musical Fountain songs (cannot wait for the new choreographer to be finished since it can run on pretty much anything including ipad's), also have two 28,000maH battery packs with USB charging/outputs that can keep my devices charged for weeks with no power.

I have no need for other electronics including a TV. I also have no need for social media, though I will admit I have a bare-bones facebook page to manage and post in a couple groups. My profiles are full of false info though to keep the advertisers/data miners confused.

Living simple keeps like simple, and I get out and socialize face to face much more than others who are glued to their devices.


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