Convenience is slowly destroying us. The favorite sales pitch is that the product will save us time, money, and effort. Often a convenience is a simple added feature that makes life a little easier. But in the end is easier really better? It seems to be harming our health both physically and mentally. It takes less effort to do minor tasks and less thinking for standard exercises like remembering somebody’s phone number.
It used to be that everything was done manually. Yes, there were mechanical devices and animals that provided the force for heavy labor, but we still did manual work and moved around on our own power. Advances were made to limit injury due to either back breaking work, repetitive movements, or difficult manual labor. But once many of those were problems are solved, the move toward increased convenience continues. On the mobility front, it is less and less necessary to climb stairs or to even push open doors. People don’t walk to the store, they drive there finding the closest spot to the door so they don’t have to walk as much. Some people (who annoy the heck out of me) drop off their passenger at the door then wait there for many minutes with their motor running for their passenger to return. The end result of all this is that both our calorie expenditure and our muscular strength are diminishing. Neither is necessarily bad, but considering that our calorie intake is the same or more, our obesity rates increase. We need to get back to walking to places and doing the little things like opening cans with a manual can opener.
It also seems that technology may be diminishing our brain power. It used to be that we had to memorize phone numbers and birthdays. But now once you enter a phone number into your phone you never need to remember it. Sadly, after a year, I still do not have my work cell phone number memorized. It’s embarrassing, but then in that time I have only had to pass along the number a half dozen times since it is already in my email signature. Nowadays, you don’t have to know how to get anywhere by car since a GPS could give you step by step directions. I’ve used it on long trips and it’s great since it gets you there at the earliest possible time, but unless I’m paying close attention, I really don’t know the route I’ve taken or why it took me on that route. For the long trips, that might not matter since I may never pass that way again, but for those who use it on a daily basis, they could get lost in their own city. It begs the question of whether our mental powers might be diminishing in the same way that physical convenience is diminishing our strength.
I was glad after thinking the above thoughts to come across an article that similarly talks about how inactivity is hurting us and even moderate levels of everyday activity benefits us. I know it may mean a bit of returning to the past, but maybe it is more about holding onto to activities that benefit us as opposed to using modern conveniences as a matter of course. Since I first starting thinking about this a while back, I have been actively considering what daily activities necessitate the technological advance currently available and what can be done ‘by hand’ or ‘by foot’ with just a bit more time and effort. Hopefully it is something we can all consider to reverse the atrophy that our society is undergoing.