Nearly everywhere we go today, we always carry a little computer with us in our pocket. A calculator, camera, telephone, gaming device, Internet machine and much more, all rolled into a little box that weighs less than a pound. Only a short 20 years ago, this was a device only seen in the realm of science fiction. And, don’t get me wrong, I love smart phones and laptops and all the conveniences that come with them, but there also have been some undeniable, unintended consequences that have come along with this technological revolution.
But let’s look at some positives first. Probably the best thing about our current day technology is that, no matter where we are, we are connected to a seemingly limitless swath of information. Just open up the search engine of your choice, punch in a few words (Google even finishes your sentences for you, how nice of them), and you have the answer to all of life’s mysteries. Never again will we have to go without knowing who was the actor who played Hector Salamanca in “Breaking Bad”; our magical little machines tell exactly what we’re looking to hear.
Like all things, though, this constant connection has a dark side. Over the years, we have been trained to rely less on ourselves and more on outside sources for retrieving information. For example, how many phone numbers do you know by heart? If you’re like me, probably not that many. In our current electronic age it makes sense. Why memorize someone’s phone number when you have a list of contacts that you can simply scroll through? I, like everyone else, am not immune to relying on technology to memorize things for me; the reason I take notes in class is because I know I cannot possibly remember every single point the professor makes. But if we’re ever in a position where we don’t have access to that technology, we suddenly find ourselves at a loss. I was on my way to the dentist when the Google maps on my phone went down. That day, I learned the value of looking up where I was going beforehand.
As a result of the many machines around us constantly vying for our attention, we have also become more scatterbrained. Now, we can watch TV, text our BFFs and listen to our favorite Nicki Minaj album all at the same time. This, of course, means we are splitting our attention multiple ways in the process, substantially reducing the amount of brainpower we give to each. And, by constantly focusing our minds on the little glowing screens in front our eyes, we end up ignoring the world around us. I can’t even count the number of times an oblivious pedestrian texting on their phone has stepped right in front of me on the bike path, nearly causing one of those infamous 20 bike pile-ups.
Every once in a while I like to go a day — a few if I can afford it — without turning on my cell phone or computer. I can almost feel my blood pressure dropping when I do. Not being distracted by electronics allows me to get other things done I might have been neglecting: exercise, home projects, catching up with some friends or family. Sometimes, it’s good to just take a break from the hectic rush of technology, if only temporarily. Granted, I don’t often take these breaks in the middle of the quarter when I’m swamped with a million emails and school projects, but I do try to make it at least a semi-regular thing.
In the end, though, I’m glad for the progress we have made in technology. All of these advances have been, if nothing else, making our lives more interesting and, for the most part, better. But, while technology has been shown to be more than useful, I still think it’s good to unplug every once in a while and smell the proverbial roses. Taking breaks from technology is a bit like ripping off a band-aid; it hurts when you do it, but you feel better afterwards.
Jay Grafft wrote this piece on a napkin. Thanks, Jay.