Last week, I went to pay my credit card bill, only to discover that someone had been using my number to buy themselves $89 gourmet dinners at Chili’s, $176 Wal-Mart purchases, and $57 to The Home Depot (hopefully they got a really nice shower head). I called my credit card company, they kindly reversed the charges, cancelled my card, and sent a new one that would arrive in 7-10 business days.
Great. Except the fact that I purchase everything on my credit card, have no debit card because that got lost in the abyss of mail at my mom’s house, work all through banking hours, and no one knows how to run checks anymore (thank goodness I house-sat last weekend so I had a very limited supply of cash to use).
The first obstacle occurred when I turned on my car and the ’empty’ light flashed at me. No problem, I can budget some cash for this. As I drove up to the pump, I forgot that I could not just swipe my card and fill up my car until it was full. I would have to calculate the gas price, figure out how many gallons my car holds so that I do not go over, look at the number of the pump, physically walk into the gas station, and give the attendant my number and payment.
As “adults”, we make these comments about, “How come kids are so lazy these days?”, “How come kids don’t know how to pick up after themselves anymore?”, “How come kids are so apathetic?”. But, after living a week without my credit card, I understand exactly why: we have made things too easy.
My generation is at the tail end of this technology and innovation phenomenon. My family bought our first computer when I was in 3rd grade, I got my cell phone when I was 14 (only because I got left at a high school football game), and I didn’t gain access to my first credit card until college. Now, don’t get me wrong, because my generation has had it easy; we could be called lazy and apathetic as well. But, for the little bit of time during my childhood before technology and innovation skyrocketed, I saw my parents writing checks to pay bills, and clipping coupons, and manually rolling down windows, and making appointments in person rather than via text message, and prepaying at the gas station. So, when it comes time for me to do these things on my own, I have a little intuition of how it works (or, at least I know that I can call my dad for wisdom and help).
The goal of technology and innovation is to make life easier, which it certainly has. There are so many more things I am able to do during my day because I have running water, and do not have to haul it from a spring. Or, that I can send a friend a “Happy Birthday” text message, rather than a phone call. Or, that I can swipe my credit card at the gas station, without having to take the time to calculate the gallons and price, to turn off my car, to walk into the gas station, to wait in line, and then make small talk with the attendant.
However, because technology does so much for us, we become immune and unaware of the processes that go into these everyday life functions. And, I think this is why kids are apathetic and lazy: because they have grown up in a society where everything is done for them, so they don’t understand life-before-the-iPhone. Before the iPhone and Siri, taking a trip would require us to take out a map, draw out a route, memorize the directions, look at nearby off ramps and potential bathroom stops. You did not just get in your car and go. However, almost every car driving now had GPS, which means I can hop into my car, punch in the coordinates, and go; the work of the trip is done for me. And, I am completely unaware of the complicated processes in going somewhere, because technology covers up the hard work, the research, the time and effort it takes to plan that trip. And, the kids of this generation would never know that, because they were never exposed to life-before-the-GPS. In this case, I can’t necessarily blame them for being apathetic and lazy, because perhaps they just don’t know life-before-the-GPS.
Life without my credit card also exposed me to another instance of how technology de-socializes our society. I always kind of thought the de-socialization was mostly due to the internet and text messaging, but I now see the effects in another way. We now have phone aps to order our Chipotle burritos, touch-screen drive thru’s to order dinner, and computerized check outs to purchase our items. I did not realize how introverted my credit card makes me, until I had to go into the gas station to pay. Pre-credit card, my only social interaction at the gas pump would include just myself. However, having to actually walk into the gas station, I pass by a guy with a really cute dog, an old high school classmate’s dad in line, and the gas station attendant herself. My trip to the gas pump suddenly went from a necessary chore that I was doing by myself, to an opportunity for social interaction.
It always happens that you don’t realize how dependent you are on things until they disappear from your life: your cell phone, internet access, credit card. While I certainly am looking forward to my new credit card arriving in the mail, the week without has been a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a society that does so much work for us.
(And, I know my room mates are eager for my credit card to come back so I can afford to frivolously spend and buy them Burger King on my way home)