Technology – The Midnight Snack That Consumes You!
Imagine this, you wake up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or a late-night snack. As you walk into the kitchen and open the fridge door, out of the corner of your eye you spot your iPhone. Suddenly you are no longer thinking about that snack, you find yourself wondering if you have any email. You tell yourself you will just check it in the morning but you can’t help yourself, and you grab the phone to check it now. You find that you have a new friend invitation on Facebook, a forward from your cousin in Seattle, and a lovely email from someone named Roseanne Legato educating you on the benefits of Viagra. Nothing urgent but you know that if you had not checked, you would have sat in bed wondering if you should get back up and check it, so you can stop thinking about it and get back to sleep.
Tina Indalecio is currently working on her Ph.D. in Media Psychology at Fielding Graduate University.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
If you are thinking you might be the only one out there who constantly stays connected, or “plugged in”, don’t worry because you are not alone.
“ONE in three people in the world admit to being addicted to technology, according to a global study by researchers at Cranfield School of Management. Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of International Management Development at Cranfield, said: “Our global study concluded that techno addiction is all about being addicted to a particular lifestyle – or work style – and as such, is driven by ambition, need for relationships, need for intimacy and social networking and age. Some people live to socialize, others live to work, while others guard their privacy and personal time.” (Business MK, 2009(link is external))
With that being said, I think it is important to note that we often talk about how we consume media, or in this case, technology. However, I’d like to consider this from the perspective that technology is actually consuming us. It consumes us by connecting us like never before and sometimes disconnecting us from the world around us.
My cell phone is probably the most used piece of technology I have. It allows me to stay plugged in at all times. I can make phone calls, text, listen to music, take photos, surf the internet, check and respond to emails, Tweet, catch up on Facebook, stay LinkedIn to business colleagues, play solitaire, find my way, and more. I feel lost when I don’t have it by my side, and yes, I am one of those people who check email every few minutes – sad but true. This little device allows me to stay connected with friends, family, and business contacts all over the world. It also allows my mom to try all possible ways to reach me if I do not respond to her instantly. For example, it is not uncommon for my home phone to ring and if I do not make it in time to answer, she will then call my cell phone. If I do not respond within 5 minutes or so, I will get a text and sometimes an email from her. I’m not exaggerating. All of this happens within a span of 10 to 15 minutes. When I do call her back I have to explain that I was not reachable at that very instant because, God forbid, I was in the backyard and away from my phone or on my business line with a client. But hey, she’s “mom” and I’m well aware that I will never win that argument. I sometimes miss the days of no cell phones and home answering machines… Gone are the days of leaving a message and being comfortable with not hearing back until later. Today, we expect to be connected and reachable all the time. And if we are not connected for just a few minutes we feel lost, and those around us feel it too.
So how is it that this little piece of technology that is so useful at connecting us to the world around us, also manages to disconnect us from the people right next to us? I think it is a catch 22. The ability to stay connected or plugged in, interferes with our basic face-to-face connections all the time. For example, I used to be really bad about reading or responding to an email while my partner was talking to me. I would half-listen to her and not remember anything she said to me. Sometimes I would have to ask her to repeat what she said. As you can imagine, this was not good! But hey I did have some standards, you know. I would never pick up the phone when it rang and when I was talking to her. But somehow I’d have a lapse of judgment when it came to texting or responding to emails. I would have to catch myself and put the phone away because I was made ever aware by the look on her face that I was being rude. And the truth is, I was. What I realized was that this little communication device was disconnecting me from my personal face-to-face communications because the very need to stay connected to everything else would consume me at times and win out. I found it strange that the need to respond NOW to a virtual conversation seemed more urgent than engaging in the face-to-face conversation that was taking place right in front of me when in reality, it should have been the exact opposite. There was an interesting article in USA Today that touches on this subject, titled “The popularity of Twitter has some relationships in a twist” it noted that:
“Twitter is not the only culprit in the competition for a loved one’s attention: Facebook and MySpace, e-mail via BlackBerry and iPhone, blogging and video blogging, video games, plus text messaging (and its naughty twin, sexting). The fight between pop-music couple Rihanna and Chris Brown started because, according to the police report, she saw a text message from another woman on his cellphone and got upset.” (USA Today(link is external))
While technology is great at allowing us to make long-distance connections, it can also be great at breaking down our closest connections – the ones that really matter the most. Some might say that “Being addicted to the wired universe might be perfectly healthy, of course, and it’s certainly defensible beneath the triumvirate of technology, curiosity, and progress.” (Doerr, 2009(link is external)) But how much, is too much? Has our virtual world filled with texts, email, user interfaces, and more gone too far? I think in the end that it comes down to finding a balance between how much we use technology and how much we let technology use us. This is not only important to maintain our closest relationships or connections but also our distant ones.