I know that as a fairly normal American teenager, I should be absolutely exhilarated by the rate at which technology is moving. The new versions of the iPhone that seem to come out every week now should thrill me; every new social networking site that emerges should excite me. But, while I’m certainly impressed with the speed at which technology is progressing, I don’t know if exhilarated is necessarily the right word to describe my feelings. Overwhelmed and slightly concerned would be more accurate.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tweeting about the random thoughts that pop into my head. I love stalking photos on Facebook. I love my GPS and Pinterest and Shazam and even the way the cursor on the Mac turns into a spinning beach ball when waiting for something to load. But recently, it’s just gotten to be a bit much.
What’s supposed to simplify our lives has only made them more complicated. When I’m sitting in the car I can’t be content just listening to the radio, or admiring the trees outside. Instead I feel pressure to tweet about the song that came on the radio. And then, once I’m on twitter, I feel the need to scroll through and read every tweet that’s been posted in the past 7 or 8 eight hours just in case I happen to stumble upon a quote that could change my life or a funny saying that could make my day.
When I’m lying in bed before I go to sleep I’m not satisfied to mull over my day. I need to read through the group chat that gets a new message every seven seconds, and then log into Facebook to see the photo everyone is talking about. Or I should be flipping through Pinterest pages in case there’s some craft idea on there I absolutely cannot live without.
Once we become so attached to technology, we can no longer function outside of it. I went to a birthday dinner with a few friends once, looking forward to an evening of fun conversations and enjoying each other’s company. Unfortunately, we did more bonding with their smart phones than with each other. There was one moment when I looked up from my meal to see that every single person at the table had their fingers glued to the touch screen of their iPhones. Two girls were face timing each other. From across the table. Two others were playing each other in “Scramble with friends.” Have we become so used to this image that we fail to see the undeniable dysfunction in it?
The essential purpose of technology is to help us live more fulfilled lives. Whether it is helping us become increasingly connected within (and outside of) our social circles, making certain tasks more efficient to create more time for others, or simply providing some background music to enhance an experience, technology is supposed to help us live more. Yet the pressure this adds causes us to live less. There is always something more we can be doing, a way to make a certain experience better, and because of this, we can never be satisfied. When the world is at your fingertips, it is almost impossible to be content in your immediate surroundings.
So how do we combat this? In our rapidly advancing environment we need equally advanced technology to keep up. To slow down progress would be to encourage complacency. And to refuse to try and keep up with this modernization would be to limit our personal opportunities.
Boycotting the iPad or switching back to snail mail is not the answer. I think the solution is simpler than that. I think it might be to just relax. To be content with what is instead of what could be with the help of a few gadgets and gizmos. While I don’t exactly have a step-by-step plan for how to prevent our lives from being ruled by technology, I do know that you really don’t need to Instagram a picture of that sunset. It might be just as fulfilling to look at it and admire it.