Spending time with my friends and family over summer break was essentially the same as always, except we were all joined by our smart phones. The numbers at get-togethers quickly doubled as smartphones and iPads quickly became “plus ones” each earning their own place around the table or a seat on the couch.
One afternoon a friend texted me and asked about my plans for the day. I replied with “spending time with my brother.” Which was true, we were sitting on the couch together sharing time and space…however we were both scrolling through our phones. We were spending time together in the most literal sense of the phrase, hardly memorable or substantial to our relationship at all. It struck me that through the constant connection people now have with the world it was becoming rare to physically and verbally connect with someone sitting next to you.
Our society constantly hears about the latest technology, advancing us to some supreme level of efficiency and power. We quickly upgrade to keep up with the world and see how this advancement improves our lives and overall well-being. Despite this promise of a better world, I can’t help but wonder if this societal advancement comes with a price: cultural destruction. To not participate in this phenomenon, one risks falling off the face of the Internet map, forgotten and nonexistent to those electronically attached.
In our haste to remain included in the ever-active, endless abyss of the Internet and the technological frontier, we lose sight of what is right in front of us. We are surrounded by an abundance of stimuli. Personal interactions with friends and family keep our lives full. Physically exploring and discovering the diverse places in the world enrich our lives in ways technology cannot. In many ways, this dependency on technology enhances our world, providing us with an impressive exchange of information and ideas, offering tools to help us build a more connected and cooperative world. But this progress presents some negative side effects and I can’t help but wonder if our advancements are setting us back.
While technology shrinks our world it also shrinks our self-esteem creating hollow individuals, dependent on gratification from the Internet. Today people think in terms of Facebook statuses and Tweets, hoping to garner attention from their peers. I often find myself trying to escape that same trap, limiting the amount of times I check my blog, Twitter or Facebook for updates, views or comments. We need electronic gratification to boast our own self-esteem, because we seem incapable of doing it without the help of a few likes on our latest Facebook post. We turn to technology for approval. Everyone is guilty of this; being accepted in the online and technological social world carries just as much weight, if not more, than being accepted in the real world. A strong online presence is essential in today’s society and with technology it is easier than ever to achieve. This task and obligation of constantly being plugged in drains us, making it impossible to find the energy to experience and interact with the world directly in front of us, and that is a great tragedy.
Technology presents us with wonderful opportunities and helps our world progress in leaps and bounds. However, we need to recognize how much it affects us.
It can become a tantalizing obsession and if we’re not conscious of its hypnotic effects, great portions of our lives will be lost in the vast vortex of the Internet. I am in no way proposing a boycott of technology, in today’s world that would be ludicrous and impossible. I am proposing a balance, unplugging from technological devices and reconnecting with the world around us. Interacting with what already surrounds us will save our society from the threat of cultural destruction technology poses.
So go on that adventure you’ve had on your favorites bar online or pinned to your travel board on Pinterest. Consider the Internet and technology as a launch pad for enriching your life, a way to prepare you to meet it head-on. It’s time to stop experiencing the world through a screen and go explore it and its people for yourself.