In the Scheme of Things: What Technology Taught Me About Independence

Recently I bought a Samsung 8, replacing my Samsung 4 that I purchased new in 2013. I’m not, as one would say, an early adopter. My husband claims me converting to a new phone was a “hard birth” for him, comparing it to when our son was born after my 22 hours of labor followed by a C-section. I didn’t buy his comparison.

I love technology. Really, I do. I love that what took 20 minutes to look up in a reference book when I was young, now takes less that 20 seconds if you Ask Google or query Suri. I love punching in a location and being guided to the right location. And I especially love content at my finger tips that sparks my thinking, creativity, and curiosity.

While I’m an avid and passionate user, I’m not much for replacing technology. It’s not that I don’t like it once I get used to it, but I don’t like to get used to it. In my new phone’s case, I contemplated returning it after just one highly charged, frustrating, not-knowing-how day.

I didn’t. Instead, I pictured a little girl I’d seen years ago, softly crying on a mall floor. I was seated on a bench adjacent to her and her mom at the time, and watched as she hurled herself to the floor, frustrated by clasps on her jacket. “Do you want me to show you?” her mother asked. The little girl nodded. With their heads together, the woman demonstrated how the metal tab fit in the hole and folded over to secure the opening. As she continued with another example, the child burst with enthusiasm, “No Mommy! I can!”

That incident is memorable because I can still see myself in that 3-year-old. Determined. Independent. Wanting to figure it out herself; frustrated if she can’t. Not willing, or able, to ask for help; wanting mastery before learning. Yup. She’s like me, only I’m a lot older.

You’d think by now asking for help would be easier. But asking sometimes gets me stuck. I don’t like feeling foolish, not informed, or dependent. And when technology’s in the mix, my frustration button can be pushed to a near tantrum-like level. Just ask my husband.

Technology — a computer or my personal assessment of non-intuitive technology — somehow exacerbates for me everything I don’t know, don’t understand, or can’t readily and independently figure out. Like that 3-year-old, my first response is: “I can do it!” I can figure this out. Let me. In many life areas, I can. But as a basic technology user, I find new or atypical problems around all-that-is-technical often requires tech-assistance.

Somewhere along my life’s journey, I equated needing help with being weak, and not needing it as being strong. But technology taught me I was wrong. I know what I’m good at and where I need assistance. Our strengths, knowledge, experiences, and gifts are different.

In the scheme of things, we’re independent and self-reliant for some things, and interdependent for others. That’s how humans work; we need each other. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.” Someday, maybe we’ll have an inter-dependence day to celebrate!