THE WAY I SEE IT #15 : By Darren Murphy

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THERE’S no denying modern technology has vastly improved some areas of our lives. It’s a no-brainer really: communication, work and travel have all been simplified. We live in an age where a new gadget makes an appearance on the retail market almost weekly. However for every great invention there are doubly more which are not so great and which, to be honest, we could do without. This is why I like to sit on the fence when it comes to technology.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying the advancement of technology is a bad thing. In fact I would be lost without my iPhone as it’s virtually the cog that drives my whole existence. I’m sure there are loads of people who agree, whether it be a smartphone they couldn’t live without or a laptop, for many of us these devices have become a necessity in everyday life.

When I was a youngster, I often painted vivid mental images of what the future would be like; and to this day I despise Michael J. Fox. Ever since watching Back to the Future as a child I was convinced we would all be zooming to work on hover boards. That said, there are some devices out there which I’m not altogether comfy with. For example, the self-service checkout machines at local supermarkets which I often find and absolute nightmare.

There I am standing swiping my items over the scanner when suddenly bang, alarms start ringing, the shutters on the doors come crashing down and the riot police turn up aiming high-calibre weapons at me. Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly, but you know the feeling, right? A queue of people impatiently wondering what the hold-up is, while a supervisor marches over and tells you off in the nicest possible way for being so stupid as to try scanning a vegetable! They also always hold the item up to show the entire queue how stupid you’ve been and why the dunce at the front is keeping them all late.

It’s at this point then the fear in me starts to grow, the moment the supervisor reaches into your basket to hold the item up. The reason for this fear is that living in a small town, it’s quite common for you to bump into friends while shopping. What’s scary about that?, I hear you asking. Well, here’s the thing: it’s also quite common for some of my friends to jokingly slip something into the basket as we meet halfway round the store, the favoured items being condoms, KY jelly or perhaps even something medicinal for a nasty sexual infection.

Fortunately for me, the embarrassment of the supervisor pulling any of these items out of my basket has not yet happened. Notice, I say yet as I’m sure at one point I’ll let my guard down and it will be too late. The supervisor will storm over, reach into my basket and hold the item aloft, like a sports star holding a trophy above their head in delight. I’ve never quite worked out why they do this, maybe it’s a power thing, I just don’t know. But what I do know for damn sure is that I have a strong dislike for those bloody machines!

Also we’ve all heard of the Kindle by now haven’t we? The electronic device on which books can be read. Reading is a favourite pastime of mine. I love books, whether they be paperback or hardback or a back torn off by the previous reader. E-readers are a threat to the noble book, though, aren’t they? But how could anyone prefer the texture-less feel of an e-reader to a real book? I like everything a book does. I like to feel and turn the pages, it’s all part of the reading experience. Going to the book store and picking out a book from the stacked shelves is such a teriffic moment. Surely downloading text onto a characterless electronic device doesn’t compare?

I’m sure I won’t be the only person who is a bit unsure of the aforementioned equipment. I’m also certain some people will disagree with my views and firmly believe these items can’t be don without. However, I just can’t help thinking technology is taking away some of the wonder from certain experiences.

Let’s face it, how many mums and dads take their kids to toy shops nowadays? I’m willing to hazard a guess many parents buy their children’s toys online. But going to the store and seeing the many different toys was as good as receiving one. And again for me it was all about the experience.

So don’t put a Kindle in your partner’s stocking this Christmas . . . buy a real book! Likewise, if your child is on the hunt for a new toy, plan a visit to the nearest toy store and watch the wondrous smile appear on their face. Remember, though, don’t use the self-service area, find a human being at one of the checkouts!