Suzanne Lindgren

The timing wasn’t ideal when my computer asked me, on deadline day, to upgrade to the latest operating system. But I did it anyway. 

Really, I should have known better. After all, one never knows for sure what will happen with these installations. 

Once, a computer crashed and I wasn’t able to revive it. Granted, it was old. And that was years ago. I’d almost forgotten about it, in fact, until I sat staring at a screen telling me my computer would be restarting for the next 37 minutes.

It gave me plenty time to regret my decision to install the OS, but it also stopped the deadline frenzy: checking email as I tried to finish stories, prepare images to accompany those stories, and check whether all the candidates had responded to my questionnaire, which inevitably brought me back to email, where the loop started all over again. 

Thirty-three minutes to go on the upgrade.

With a little distance, I saw the truth in an old “Portlandia” sketch about the “technology loop.” In it, the comedian is checking his email when he’s distracted by a list of the 10 cutest puppies. Then he gets a text, his tablet needs a software update, he realizes his Netflix videos are sitting, unwatched. Another text, more email, and the bouncing from one device to another continues with no end.

Twenty-six minutes to go. As the sketch makes clear, I’m not alone. If anything, my tendency toward enabling “do not disturb” on my phone means I get fewer rings, buzzes and pings throughout the day. Still, it seems impossible to keep up. I’m starting to wonder if it’s my mind that needs the upgrade.

Twenty-one minutes remaining.

When all the gadgets are off, nothing they have to tell you seems that important.

Eighteen minutes left.

On the other hand, the phone is handy when you need to let someone know you’re stuck in traffic, or worse, need to be rescued when you throw a rod and your engine stops working. And it is nice to be able to check your email while you’re waiting on a friend who’s late to lunch. 

It’s a powerful tool, this technology. And like any tool — a knife, a flame, electricity — it can hurt us if we’re not careful enough.

Nine minutes to go.

“Hurt,” of course, is relative. The damage isn’t as obvious as a cut, a burn, a shock. But it often seems the more time we give it, the more endless the task of finishing everything becomes. It’s probably in our own best interest to observe the cumulative effects of time spent in the tech loop, a reactive, stressful state. 

And at last the update is complete.

That “Portlandia” sketch? It ends when the comedian’s eyes roll back in a “mind-fi” fail.

It’s a pretty good description of me, post OS upgrade, as I try to track down important communications that seem to be lost for good. 

Back into the loop I go.

I welcome your response to this editorial column:


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