What is a computer?
I know all the lessons about the pieces of a computer. I taught the class years ago, the class where you needed to teach about the CPU and the peripherals, the input devices and the storage devices.
I don’t mean that. I mean, when someone says, “You spend hours in front of that computer” or “You waste hours in front of that computer”, what is a computer?
The screen, the keyboard, they stand for something. They represent evil or time wasting or some thing.
And I bristle.
When I hear the “you waste” statement, and then discover that the person who is speaking uses their computer primarily to play solitaire, I find I have to agree. Spent that way, the time is wasted.
Of course, if those cards were real, and the person is sitting alone in front of a television, the time is just as wasted. However, in the latter case, the computer isn’t to blame.
When I hear the “you waste” statement, and then discover that the person is talking about someone who plays Microsoft Golf, hour after hour, I find I have to agree. Spent that way, the time is wasted.
Of course, if the clubs were real, and the person is playing five rounds a week, the time may be just as wasted. (Of course, the argument at that point is an argument about fitness or being out in nature or something like that).
When I hear the “you waste” statement and then discover that the person is talking about someone spending hours chatting online, playing Scrabble with people they have never seen, I find that I may agree. Spent that way, the time may be wasted.
Of course, if the people were in the same room playing Scrabble, talking about how messed up the neighbors are or about the problem with Millie’s leg, the time may be just as wasted.
Perhaps a more accurate statement is not, “You waste hours in front of….” But “you (and I) waste hours.” You in your way, I in mine, but neither of us is looking closely at how we are investing our time in people, in growth, in understanding.
Or perhaps we are. Perhaps the time spent playing solitaire online or off is a brief break. Perhaps the time, online or off, interacting with people actually is about friendships, about understanding and working in the lives of other people.
But how can that be true if you haven’t ever seen someone?
Maybe later. For now, let’s agree that the computer can’t take the blame for our use of time and attention. That’s our responsibility.