My alarm goes off at 8 am exactly. I pick up my iPhone, which is less than 3 feet away from me when I sleep. I turn off the alarm. Then, I make my rounds. First, I check my text messages and respond to them. Then, normally it’s whatever app has the most notifications. Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, they all make the cut eventually. Finally, I check my email and respond to any ones that need an immediate response. All of this is done without even leaving my bed, and within about 10 minutes. My morning routine is not complete without listening to music on my phone’s speaker. Next, I hop on the bus or walk to class, looking down at my phone almost the entire time. I probably didn’t get any new notifications between the time I checked them when I woke up and my journey to class, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. God forbid someone tries to contact me and I’m not available right away. Sitting through class is usually a little dull, but since I take notes on my laptop I can just go on Pinterest when the lecture gets boring, right?
I feel like there’s something wrong with this. I seem to be tied to my devices almost 24/7. Sure, I’m not on my phone all day and night, but it usually doesn’t leave a 5-foot radius of my body. But what happened to social interaction? Why can’t I focus in class for more than 30 minutes without checking my phone? Why do I wake up and instantly check what’s going on in the world instead of just looking out my window?
We talked a lot about this issue in my Philosophy class a few weeks ago and a friend brought it up again in conversation recently. I figure that now would be a good time to reflect on it.
I think the thing that is so addicting about technology is how fast it is. We can get so much information at our fingertips. I constantly pick up my phone to look up things I’m unsure of and can get an answer within seconds. The internet is full of facts, photos, opinions, and everything in between. Anything I want to find is available to me right away. This turns me into an extremely impatient person. Yes, patience may be a psychological trait, but I do believe it’s a product of our environment as well. I am so used to getting things quickly that I become extremely impatient when I don’t get them quickly. I want quick answers. I don’t want to stand in line. I want things rapidly and efficiently, just like technology delivers it.
One thing we discussed in my Philosophy class that I found really interesting is the belief that we will eventually no longer be able to enjoy activities that take a long time. I find this to be extremely accurate. Think of all the fun things you like to do that take a lot of time. Aren’t you tempted to check Twitter or watch Netflix instead? For example, I personally love being outdoors. This past summer, I tried to go on as many hikes as possible. But for every single one I went on, I had my phone with me. I was texting my friends and making plans for later. Not only was I interested on what was going on elsewhere, I was constantly documenting the trip instead of being in the moment and experiencing it.
That’s another thing that I’ve noticed. Any time I do something cool or fun, I always want to share it with my friends. Isn’t that kind of the point of social media like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook? But have we stopped enjoying the moments themselves and focused more on how we will share them with others? Back in the pre-smartphone days I imagine people had those experiences and then went back and shared them with their friends in person. Technology is changing how we experience things.
The final thing I want to draw attention to is the change in how we interact with others. The other day, I was on the bus when a girl from my high school got on. Instead of saying hi, I just looked at my phone and pretended not to see her. But the thing is, I don’t think she saw me either. We were both so wrapped up in our own virtual worlds that we didn’t even notice each other. What other, more important things are we missing because we are glued to our devices?
Technology isn’t completely terrible. It has provided us with opportunities and resources we couldn’t have imagined 50 years ago. Scientists have found cures to major diseases. College students are able to access more books than their library can hold. But nobody really seems to talk about the negative effects of technology. I know this post poses a lot of questions with not many answers, but I just wanted to get my thoughts into writing and encourage others to reflect on how technology affects their own experiences.