The rise of accessible communication technology occurred like a muffled explosion, omnipresent to the background of my youth, slowly expanding and gaining momentum evermore. As children we used scientific calculators to spell “BOOBS”, library-loaned sets of computers to look at geometry, cradled digi-pets in our sweaty palms, and sat impatiently at home computers listening to the familiar and stress-inducing sound of the dialup connection as we waited to log into aim or MySpace.
I like to think about this simple beginning and its stark contrast with the role that technology plays in my life today. As a child, I probably spent a composite 5 hours total engaging in modern technology every week. Now, I probably spend more than half of my waking time staring at some sort of a screen, and I don’t even own a television.
I wake up and check my email on my phone before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
I stumble into the living room and turn on my computer before I’ve looked in a mirror or thought about coffee.
I’m eagerly checking for notifications in my 10 or so profiles and accounts before I begin to considered the day’s agenda or look out a window.
The computer and the internet contain for me an endless to-do list: things to research, things to respond to, folders to organize, messages to acknowledge, details to change, documents to edit, news to keep up on, blogs to scan, friends to keep up with, previous work to double-check, jobs to search for, documents and photos to upload and backup and send and print and scan. The list literally goes on and on.
And this is the thorn to the rose we call the internet: its depth is endless. There will always be more information to attain. I can always be a more active user. I have no excuse for shying away from the diy project or a foreign subject, thanks to Wikipedia and YouTube.
And, because of the birth of the smartphone, there no longer needs to be a lull in anyone’s online awareness and engagement.
Keeping up with new technology is a sink or swim sort of reality. Either you resolve to be active with new technology—anticipating its arrival and setting aside the time to enroll and explore—or you slowly feel yourself drifting away from a huge cultural phenomenon that becomes harder and harder to understand the longer you wait.
In sharing this perspective, I am not suggesting that I believe that this is an ideal reality, or that I think the speed-of-light invasion of the internet into my every moment is necessarily a good thing.
Instead, I’d like to suggest that technology stresses the living hell out of a lot of people (including me) a lot of the time.
With infinite possibilities come infinite pressures, infinite opportunities, and infinite choices. This scenario, I believe, is partially driving my generation mad.
Many of my friends have actively rejected aspects of social media and modern technology—refusing Facebook as a useless waste of time or eschewing the popular smart phone for the blissful limitations of their flip phones instead.
I recently had to have my smartphone replaced, and I must admit that even I made the active choice not to reinstall many of the applications and synced accounts that I had before (such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn). I eventually realized that, as a result of having all these applications on my phone, I was no longer able to actively “do nothing”. Every red light, moment left alone at a table, interval spent waiting in line, etc., was filled with the use of my phone, and this realization terrified me a little.