I have been dealing with some repetitive stress issues in my hands lately. There are many days in a week when I will type consistently at a keyboard for anywhere between five and nine hours a day. It is a blessing and a curse at the same time, because while I get a good amount of work done, it also ends up taking a toll on my body.
Now, I know that no one is interested in hearing a writer ramble on about his woeful typing injuries. Hell, just seeing that in print makes me feel a little bit sheepish about even posting this. But the fact is that anything you do over and over again, day after day, will likely add wear and tear to your various parts. Some of my nagging issues can be addressed with stretching and regular exercise. But every once in a while my hands stage a revolt and no longer will cooperate. My knuckles well up and it hurts to do even the most basic work that is required in my daily routine.
I consider myself fortunate to live in a time when digital dictation software has reached the point that it can actually be both practical and useful for someone like me. In fact, in the couple of days that I have been using a new dictation program (to compose, among other things, this very blog post) I have seen a noticeable jump in my productivity. I am a horrible typist, which leads in part to the repetitive stress injuries I subject myself to. But it also means my hands are a lot slower than my brain tends to be. So far, I have found that this new software has eliminated that barrier.
It’s exhilarating to realize that I’m getting more done in less time. I got up and took a walk around the church while back, feeling pretty satisfied that I had fulfilled all of my professional duties for the day. And here it was, more than an hour before I even have to go pick up the kids!
But then I had a moment beset with pangs of anxiety. Yes, at the moment I can answer emails faster with this little gadget than most people can muster a response. It puts me slightly ahead of the curve. But then I realized this advantage is only a temporary luxury. The efficiency that a new technology affords only works as long as the majority of people you come into contact with aren't yet using the same technology. Once they are, the entire conversation accelerates, and the expectations of everyone increase to at least reach the maximum limit of the new capability everyone has just recently acquired.
Then the race is on for the next new thing. And there will always be a market for those who want to stay a step or two ahead in the productivity game. But both sides of the bell curve are plagued with a similar anxiety, whether it is the worry about being left hopelessly behind or the paranoia that those we are striving to keep pace with or just slightly ahead of are only a few faint steps behind.
I recognized this as both a cultural and personal addiction of sorts. And there is no endgame that leads to better news, short of a universal consensus that enough is enough or a violent backlash against the psychic or even physical effects that such constantly accelerating technology has on us.
At some point, I suppose it comes down to our threshold for being disappointing to others. That has always been one of my greatest weaknesses, which is why I am working on my second post of the day with this dictation software rather than giving it a rest and simply walking away until my body heals. Maybe someday I will make peace with the fact that I will not always meet expectations. But for today technology is my angel and I am Jacob. The sun is far from rising, so for now, I suppose we will just keep on wrestling.
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist. He is director of church growth and development at First Christian Church in Portland, Ore. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."
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