I’m the first to admit I’m attached to my technological devices. I have several editing jobs, a photography business and a major in English, so it’s pretty fair to say that I heavily rely on technology. For the most part, I don’t think of it as particularly negative.
Not too long ago, however, I realized how much the digital age is pulling us back for every bit it propels us forward. I don’t want to be one of those cranky people who complains about social media and the digital age, and as someone who loves to keep in touch with as many people as possible and has to do too much research, I think both social media and quick access is largely beneficial.
Technology allows us to connect with people, explore avenues we never thought possible, and access necessary information exceptionally fast and at the click of a button.
This digitally supported idea of “I want it fast, and I want it now” keeps us from being intellectually challenged and aware of the world around us.
People are so accustomed to reading 120-character tweets and Facebook statuses about lunch and the weather that they are barely willing to read a 600- word news article or a compelling novel.
People are so accustomed to watching Snapchat stories and six-second Vines that it’s difficult to force someone to watch a 15-minute YouTube video let alone a presidential debate or a three-hour play about the world they live in.
We are so conditioned as a culture to have quick information and quick access, and unfortunately the items that are typically quickly accessed are mindless videos and social messages that don’t challenge individuals or strengthen their minds and result in an aversion to the genres that actually will.
It is the same for social media. As a result of instantaneous connectivity, people become so acclimated to connecting with people online that they often forget how to connect with people right in front of them.
People will spend hours liking statuses, retweeting tweets and snapping pictures of their breakfasts, but are less willing to spend five minutes in deep conversation with their friends. They are more interested in their phone screens than their families at dinner.
People will “swipe right” for 50 people they’ve never met on Tinder for a quick get together but are far less willing to work on a serious relationship.
We are accustomed to the routine of “fast and easy,” not long-term or hard work. This ease has made us lose what makes us characteristically human— genuine human connection.
I’m not perfect. I still find myself spending too much time online and focusing too much on my phone screen when I’m out with friends or family. It’s easy, and I slip into it often, especially so when I’m doing work on my laptop.
However, I try to challenge myself to unplug often. I take notice of the time I spend on my phone and laptop and try my best to make sure I spend at least an equal amount of time doing activities that don’t require the digital world.
If we were to take a step away from our technology, to convince ourselves to turn off our phones when having lunch with a friend, to read a bit of a book every night before bed instead of scrolling down our newsfeeds, we would all appreciate and understand the world around us more and perhaps even work harder to fight for our place in it.