ROSE NOLEN: Despite benefits of technology, some things still need human touch

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 10:37 a.m. CDT; updated 6:38 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 7, 2011

I doubt the day will ever come when a member of an older generation fails to find fault with a member of a younger generation.

These days, nothing seems to irritate some older friends of mine more than the constant use of cell phones. They wonder if young people believe their fingers will fall off if they're not in constant motion.

I always remind them that their parents probably felt the same way about young people's ears when portable radios with headphones came on the scene.

What they find most annoying is that so many younger people are convinced that everyone in America has a computer. Those in charge of businesses are equally guilty, but in real life, this is simply not true.

We all know individuals who do not own or use computers. And while it's true that many more people have cell phones, that does not include everyone.

Some insist on keeping their lives as simple as possible by avoiding technology. Yet, life ultimately seems to wear most folks down to the point where they fall in line and begin to follow the practices of the majority.

What makes life complicated is that most big businesses and corporations tend to follow the trends set by young people.

That's of course because young people tend to buy more stuff and consequently make up the largest segment of the consumer base. I would venture to guess that most people who support social networks and matchmaking websites are less than 50 years old.

At one time or other, every generation adjusts to the fact that their world has been overtaken by a new generation, with new ideas and new patterns of behavior.

Looking at it rationally, we all realize that's the way it should be. Not much progress would be made if we continued to repeat the ideas and behaviors of past generations.

Whenever I think about generational progress, I can't help but look back at two decades in American history that I find particularly stunning.

Between 1886 and 1906, Alexander Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the usable light bulb, the first skyscraper was built in Chicago, the Wright brothers completed their first flight and the first automobile was driven on the streets of Detroit.

I imagine Americans' heads were spinning around on their necks almost every week. And I am sure the younger generations during those years were just as precocious as every generation since.

There are a lot of things not to like about the computer age — video games being among them. And I certainly wish people wouldn't talk or text on cell phones when they are driving.

To get over the irritation, I just have to consider the progress made every day in medical science that allows us to live longer, healthier lives. In my family, progress in the treatment of glaucoma has made a tremendous difference in the way we are able to live.

I realize that many people keep in touch with their family and friends on Facebook. Frankly, visits with those near and dear to me require more than a quick read on the computer. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices are important for me to understand how they really feel.

Technological advances are important in their own way. But some things still require a human touch.

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