A dear friend got me an Amazon Echo for Christmas, so now I have a new friend named Alexa.

I haven't told Siri yet. Shhhhhhh.

Sometimes friends get jealous when you make new friends ... I assume that can still be true even if they are virtual.

In case you don't know, the Echo is that contraption you see in commercials that everyone talks to ... ask Alexa the weather, what's on TV, to play a song, to tell you your schedule for the day, etc.

So, of course, I had a question for this unlimited-capability computerized brain.

"Alexa, why do fools fall in love?" I asked.

"I have a song about that. Would you like to hear it?" she said in her computer voice.

"Sure," I replied, still trying to act like it is normal to have a conversation with a cylindrical speaker.

She belted out a sample of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. Huh. I didn't know this question was posed lyrically back in 1956 and yet still, in this modern age, we have no answer.

Well, then, Alexa. What good are ya?

The device actually is kind of fun. I synced it with my phone and can play all my tunes via the better sound quality of the Echo. I ask it the outside temperature in the morning while my Pop Tarts are in the toaster.

I still haven't introduced the iPhone's Siri to the Echo's Alexa. I don't know if they'd get along or not.

This same friend spoiled me with a set of bluetooth plug-ins you can control remotely via an app on your phone. I put a living room lamp on one of them.

So there I was the other night in bed, on my phone, turning the living room light on and off.

And it occurred to me -- as it has many times before -- that all this technology is making us lazy.

We had a chat about this at work the other day. Some folks had friends who have an Echo, while others would like to have one themselves. We discussed the things that Alexa can do, such as play music in response to a simple verbal request.

The JG-TC's own Clint Walker piped up and stated the obvious. It went something like this:

"Yeah, because it's SO hard to pick up a CD, put it in a tray and push a button to start the music. Oh I'm exhausted after that."

Well, I felt kind of silly. Here I've been enjoying all these electronic toys and all along I've probably been saving myself only an estimated 3.4 seconds per instance of use.

All these gadgets are nice and convenient, but they're spoiling us rotten. And the ones that are supposed to help us communicate sometimes keep us from communicating.

Just how often do you see a few people at a table in a restaurant and all of them looking at their phones instead of each other? Only every day, right?

I fear Siri and Alexa may even lead to a declining population.

I mean, if you're single, and you need someone to talk to because all your friends are at home asking their kids how to work their cellphones, you've got Siri and Alexa to keep you company.

Get an electric blanket to keep you warm; talk to Alexa anytime you want -- and she listens, and responds; let the dishwasher do the dishes; and let your cellphone practically hold your hand, and why do you need a spouse?

Folks will start seeing the benefits of staying single and alone and never have kids. Generations to come will shrink, and we'll all be left with Alexa and Siri to talk to, and our cellphones to bring friends to us, rather than actually have face-to-face conversations.

I remember when technology added more to our lives, it seemed.

I still have my first cassette/radio player. As a teenager, I was SO excited to get that! I could record songs from the radio to listen to anytime I wanted, and play music in a way that a transistor radio or a record player couldn't.

Someone else must have recognized the value of this days-gone-by tech, as popular as vinyl has become.

We didn't need Alexa to tell us the weather. We, um, just looked outside! It was nice to hear the weatherman on the radio give exact statistics and forecasts, but a step outside on the front stoop for a minute gave a person a pretty good idea.

Besides, weather rocks were inexpensive and used no electricity. And didn't talk back.

I think technology adds positive things to our lives until it just plain makes us slothful. And some tech is making the old-fashioned ways of things really hard to do.

Tried to change a tire lately? It's practically impossible for an average person to get those darn lug nuts off. Machines they use in the mechanic's shop now get those babies on so tight you almost have to have the same kind of machine to get them off.

And what happens when the electricity goes off? Lose power for an extended period of time and it'll be glaringly apparent to you how useless these devices can be.

But they can also be really cool in really good ways.

Two of my nieces and one nephew and their dad Skype with his parents, who live in Germany, on occasion. Being so far away, they naturally don't see each other often. So that's a real benefit of technology.

I think FaceTime is cool, as when you're away from someone but want to see them while you talk, like Skype, you can do that.

I like being able to have my music on my phone and play it via my vehicle, especially on road trips.

Of course, with the dawn of cassette tapes years ago, we could do that, too. My first car had a radio only, so I got a portable cassette player, put it in the front seat, and had my tunes wherever I went.

So maybe I'm just plain lazy to begin with.

I don't wear a watch anymore because I can just look at the time on my phone. I barely use a computer for email because I can get it on my phone. I don't have to write letters and cards because I communicate with far-away friends via Facebook.

I sure hope nothing goes wrong with the dang phone.

One thing we need to remember, though, is that whatever you say, type or otherwise input into any computer device can be accessed by anyone savvy enough to hack into it. Privacy? We're giving up a lot of that in favor of the luxury of convenience.

I like Alexa, though. And I like my bluetooth plug-ins. I have fun turning on the living room light from the bathroom.

Don't ask me why -- I just do.

Penny Weaver is the associate publisher and editor of the JG-TC. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of the JG-TC. Contact her at pweaver@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6863, and follow her on Twitter @PennyWeaver.


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