Plugged in – are we becoming too dependent on our beloved technology?

By Sonja Nikcevic

Since this week’s posts have dived straight into the technology debate of iPhones vs. phones you can play Snake on, and have caused clans to form in our editorial line, I think it’s time I joined in.

Because  I do have a phone that is from this century, and that sadly, does not have the option of spending countless hours pretending to be a snake eating bits of pixel  (hmm, maybe I should go the app store and double check though), I think this puts me firmly in the comfortable, techno-conformist camp.

Now, I honestly don’t think there’s any need to sing praises to smartphones (Camy did a great job of that!), but I will say that all the countless messaging, video-calling and point & shoot options have made my long distance relationship seem a little less long distance. And today, when an urgent, laundry-related phone call interrupted a meeting with a professor, being able to randomly scroll through my phone saved me from having to sit there awkwardly and listen to the actual laundry drama.

However, I am not the least bit comfortable with how dependent my everyday life and mood have become on my fancy touchscreen and all the other gadgets I have lying around.

Now, I like to think of myself as relatively accomplished traveler. While there are still entire continents that I haven’t seen, there are a decent number of been-there-loved-that pins on my world map and still plenty of time for them to spread. There is no doubt though, that technology has profoundly changed the way we travel. One-click systems and electronic tickets may be great, but what about the authentic feel of an actual map, or a slightly worn, crumpled book?

Remember this? No?

Remember this? No?

I am ashamed to say that, at least in my bag, they’ve been replaced with Google map app and a Kindle, and about 6-7 chargers that need to be with me wherever I go. And what do chargers need? Sockets. Let’s face it, those two holes in the wall have come to rule our lives. As soon as we walk into a classroom, or step on a bus, we don’t look for familiar faces; we look for familiar, lifesaving and battery saving holes. We’re sitting far away from friends but there’s a socket under the table? Score! We forgot our charger at home? Life is officially a tragedy and we can’t forgive our own stupidity. Quite disturbing when you stop to think about it.

Chargers here, chargers there, chargers in the shape of Swiss army knives - why not?

Chargers here, chargers there, chargers in the shape of Swiss army knives – why not?

Skeumo-what?

Now, in the world of technology, the newest discussions among the big shots (like our favorite electronic fruit, Apple) have been about skeumorphism. That’s a fancy word that means technology software imitating the look, feel and sound of reality they’ve replaced – like reminders on our desktops resembling yellow sticky notes, or our phone cameras making a shutter click sound. None of these things are necessary, but they’re there to make embracing technology and ‘plugging in’ just that little bit easier, and company pockets that little bit deeper due to our nostalgia. Corporations are now arguing whether it’s a necessity or waste of time and resources, but, does it even really matter?

At the end of the day, whether or not our fancy new iPhones and Androids have traces of the past in their software, pages swiping and shutters clicking, the fact is that there are no pages or shutters. And that might be a good thing – our yellow (or pink, or green) sticky note is now a camera, a Gameboy and an entire newspaper too. BUT (and there’s always a but), losing touch with reality is a slippery slope. Today it’s a book, a map and a sticky note, soon it’s the end of anything non-electronic. Passports? Natural sunlight? Human interaction? The possibilities are endless.

And it’s things like this, and the fact that Google maps seems to have wiped out all our natural sense of direction and ability to read a map, that make me want to unplug all the cables and go live in the forest with my trusty old 3310 (and Snake).

Aah, the good old days. Sit back and let yourself be hypnotized by nostalgia.

Aah, the good old days. Sit back and let yourself be hypnotized by nostalgia.

Unfortunately, doing so isn’t a realistic option, especially in this world of media and journalism we’ve all decided we can’t live without. And it’s one thing to be up to date and have news at your fingertips, but it’s a whole other thing to ignore the real world beyond the technology. So sure, have an iPhone and an iPad and a Mac and a Kindle, but make sure to unplug yourself from them once in a while, read a real book, hang out with real friends (that aren’t named Siri, or Talking Tom) and have real discussions, where Google isn’t the tiebreaker. The key is pretty clichéd – it’s moderation.

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