A help or hindrance to our society? We live in a very interesting time. We are a people steadily becoming more and more reliant on our electronics. Everywhere you lookup can find people glued to their smart phones; at stoplights, walking down the street, during meetings, at the dinner table, while shopping, even when hanging out in a group. Sadly, when connecting with others through our devices we are actually disconnected from reality. Our society is changing at an exceedingly rapid rate due to advancements in genealogy.
The world we live in today is very different from the world we were living in, say, only 10 years ago. Let’s go back to 2004 and compare some differences in technology/social media. In 2004 was in the 8th grade. The Motorola Razz debuted that year. The device was ahead of Its time. It came with a sleek design, large color screen, and a VGA camera. These were some of the best features offered by any company. I wanted it more than anything, but my parents had deemed me too young to own a cell phone. This was an awesome device, but there wasn’t really much use or it beyond phone calls, testing, pictures and some limited Internet browsing.
In that same year social media had Just began to explode on to the mainstream scene through the social networking website Namespace. I remember being Introduced to the website by a friend from school. I was hesitant to make a profile at first because the idea of having an online page dedicated solely to myself was too foreign. I started to warm up to the idea of creating my own profile after hanging out at my friend’s house a few times and watching him connect with other friends from school. It was actually pretty cool to see the profiles of some of the kids I went to school with.
I liked the “about me” section because it gave you a new look Into your friends’ lives. You could find things out about them that you may not have ever known otherwise. It didn’t take long before I ended up creating an account for myself. I threw on a few pictures, wrote a small about me section, and chose one of my favorite songs at the time to have playing on my page for anyone who clicked on it. Within the next couple of months all of my friends and most of my siblings had a Namespace. It had become a tankard for keeping in contact with friends.
I would log on probably 2 or 3 times a day, and at the time that seemed like a lot. During this time period, technology wasn’t so Intrusive. I used electronics only casually. Fast forward 3 years. Not much had changed in terms of social media. Faceable had come out, but it hadn’t really caught on yet. People were still using Namespace but it had lost some of its steam. Cell phones had advanced only marginally. Screens were larger and processors were a little faster, but there still wasn’t much use for your phone beyond calls, texts, and minimal ebb browsing.
Then in June of 2007, Apple released the phone. The release of this device was groundbreaking. Apple had created the first smart phone with a large the user experience was extremely pleasing. I did myself a favor and purchased an phone three months after it was released. I found myself using the phone far more than I had ever used one before. I am the type of person who loves to read, whether it be books, news articles, blobs, newspapers etc. It had opened up a world of information and entertainment to me. I could now use my phone for everything.
I had al of my music on there and a plethora of APS that were great. I could sit on my phone for hours on end not really comprehending how much time had gone by. My family became irritated due to my disinterest in them and the newfound interest I had in my phone. I was in my own little world for the first few weeks. I still had a social life, but whenever I was alone I was glued to my phone. One day a few weeks after I purchased the phone a large group of my friends had plans to go the high school football game. This was something we did every week.
But this particular week I decided to skip out on the game. I was watching a documentary on Youth that I really wanted to finish. I realize I could have done this on the computer before I had the phone, but there was something so much more convenient about lying in my bed, phone in hand, watching a great documentary. I spent the night in my room staring at a small screen rather than going out and being social with my friends. That next day at school a few of my buddies asked me why I didn’t come to the game. Instead of telling them the truth, I made up an excuse.
Apparently I was too ashamed o admit that I had decided not to go to the game because I’d rather mess around on my phone at home. They Just kind of brushed the whole thing off, but I didn’t. Something wasn’t right here. Suddenly I realized that the so-called favor’ I had done myself, wasn’t much of a favor at all. I had purchased a device that had taken me from reality, and hindered my communication with those around me. I had to make a change. I couldn’t continue blocking others out while letting my device consume me. I decided that I’d only use my phone for the same uses my last phone provided me.
This meant that I could only use it to call, text, and take pictures. No more browsing the Internet, reading articles, watching videos, playing games, etc. Pretty much everything that I had become so infatuated with during the previous weeks had to be taken away. This sounds silly because it defeated the purpose of even buying the phone in the first place. But I wasn’t going to keep this rule forever; I was doing it to test myself. I wanted to see if this small test would affect my life negatively or positively. The first few days were really difficult.
It was hardest when I was sitting at my souse alone with nothing else to do. What was the harm in hopping onto the Internet to read some informative articles? I would find myself lying in bed at night, sleepless, yearning for my phone. I started to doubt that there was any real purpose for doing this test, but I withstood the urge. After about a week I could already see some positive changes. One morning, before school, I was sitting in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal. My little brother walked downstairs, poured himself a bowl, and sat next to me.
He turned to me and asked, “Why aren’t you playing with your new phone? ” This kind of took me by surprise. I replied with, “Because I’d rather talk with you before I have to go to school. ” He Just kind of laughed and then we chatted for a few minutes until I certain comfort in something as simple as small talk with my little brother. My family had noticed that I wasn’t on my phone as much, and I could see that it made them happy. This test was starting to pay off. After two weeks I lifted the restrictions I had put on myself. I felt I had learned what I needed to.
I was glad I challenged myself because a learned some valuable things. I learned that it was okay for me to use the phone to it’s full potential, but that I needed to limit myself to the use of it. I found that I was a lot more involved with what was going on around me, and I liked that. I liked being a part of the conversation again. So I Just set some ground rules with myself. I decided that anytime I was with other people, I wouldn’t use my phone unless it was completely necessary. When I was alone, I would try to do other things that were more productive. Now let’s fast forward to the present time.
Technology and social media have continued to evolve rapidly. It’s fascinating to watch, and also a little scary. Just like Namespace became a standard for connecting with friends, smart phones have become the standard if you’re going to have a cell phone. They have become readily available to all types of people, rich or poor, because they are so affordable. You may have to pay $200 to get a top of the line smart phone, but there are many that are free with a two-year contract. These free’ phones aren’t shoddy devices. They are actually far more advanced than the 1st generation phone I owned back in 2007.
The problem with this is that millions of people are gaining access to these devices, and Just like hat, millions of people are becoming disconnected with reality. I’m not saying that this applies to everyone, but there are a very large percentage of people, mostly in the younger generation, who are shutting others out because their devices give them something more instantly gratifying than whatever is going on around them. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have been out to eat on multiple occasions recently and looked around me to see every person at the table looking down at their phones.
This is because there are a wide variety of applications on every smart phone calling or the owners’ attention. Whether it’s Faceable, Mainstream, twitter, email, or Just a simple text; there’s always a reason to check your phone so you can connect with those you aren’t with. Isn’t that a little sad? As time goes on, we as a society are losing grip with how we used to connect with one another. We are slowly losing respect for those we share the room with physically. Do we really need to be connecting with those who are away when we’ve got company right in front of us? Can’t that article you were reading earlier wait until you are alone?
These are questions I ask myself as I see people becoming evermore reliant on their devices. I am glad I learned to limit myself at such a young age. It has helped me substantially with knowing how to balance the use of technology in my own life. It will be interesting to see how our society develops as the younger generation grows older. I speak of the generation of children who’ve never known life without smart phones, pads, social media and so on. I hope as we evolve through this technological era, we can find a way as a people to maintain our human interaction, because without that, this world would be a very dismal place.