I got an iPhone today!! I knew it was time for a new phone, but I went into the store not knowing what to get. After talking to the sales associate, I decided an iPhone 4 was the way to go. Now I can access my work email easily, Face Time with Alex, have instant Internet access, and play Words with Friends...oh, and call people too, the original purpose of the telephone!
It's amazing how much technology has changed in 50 years. My Dad was talking this morning about how when he was growing up, his house was part of a "party line," where 3 houses on his street all shared one phone line. They had to pick up the phone and check to make sure someone in another house wasn't on the phone already (IMAGINE the potential for spying on the neighbors with that!), and each home had a different sounding telephone ring...I can't imagine our society living like that now!
These days, smart phones pretty much do everything for you. I'm playing with my new toy and absolutely amazed. It actually frightens me a little bit thinking about the future of technology...what's next?
Now that I am a proud iPhone owner, I have a ton of things to distract me....the iPhone and all of its applications and features, Facebook, Twitter, this blog, LinkedIn, and even Google+, which my friend just invited me to join. This leaves me with a million things to constantly "check" and also allows me the potential to have an extremely large digital presence. I've been thinking a lot today about the implications for this.
I hear adults, such as my parents, complain about technology and my generation, and I can see both sides to this "virtual age" that we live in. On one hand, the things we are capable of absolutely amaze me. Technology makes our lives easier, allows us to be more efficient, and reach others faster than ever. The world has become very small, and we can be instantly connected to any information we want. Instead of having to make multiple phone calls, we can fire off a few texts or emails and work on other things while waiting for a response. We are advancing in science and learning more than ever before, and technology makes much of these advances possible.
However, I can see the concerns with this as well. First of all, we rely more and more on virtual communication. Emails instead of walking to someone's office, texts instead of phone calls. This allows us to hide behind textual conversations rather than rely on facial expressions, tone, body language, etc. It also gives us time to craft an answer and spend time thinking of a reply, rather than forcing us to articulate our thoughts and reactions in real time. I think this can be a hindrance for some people when we are forced to make face-to-face interaction.
I think all of this technology also makes us lose a lot of privacy. We are naturally curious about what others are doing, and it's easy for us to figure this out by stalking Facebook photos, reading Twitter posts, and even discovering someone's exact location. Call me crazy, but I refuse to participate in the "Check-Ins" that so many people now post online...doesn't anyone else find it creepy to know this? And don't even get me started about the potential this gives to burglars! We forget that there's some attractiveness to leaving a little mystery.
Additionally, more people than ever seem to be overwhelmed, stressed out, and not able to focus. This is because we are inundated with information. We are unable to filter out what is important and sit and focus on one thing (say, a good book, an important work proposal, or a deep conversation with a loved one), because we are constantly interrupted with the dinging of text messages, email pop-ups, news sites giving us the latest headlines, and much more.
What's my solution for all of this? I'm still figuring that out. We want technology to keep progressing if it helps us, but I think it's important for us to "unplug" every once in a while. Close out of your email while you focus on an assignment. Turn off your phone for date night. Leave your laptop closed for the weekend. Go to someone's office instead of sending yet another email. We can't halt progress, but let's not lose the human element in communication or overwhelm ourselves with information and distractions. We may spend a lot of time in a virtual world, but we have to remember there is a simple, real world out there...the one we actually live in.