Oh, how we love our technological (de)vices

Think for a moment … how many “technological devices” do you use in an average day?

I can count six that I use almost every single day. My cell phone, my computer, my TV, my DVR from Time Warner Cable, my stereo and my iPod. I have two iPods. One is a 20-gigabyte model from at least four years ago that’s hanging on for dear life – the one I bring to school, the one that gets knocked around in my backpack all day. The other is a newer 80-gig iPod Classic that I bought last summer to ensure that I won’t be left in the dark when my other one finally kicks the bucket.

I also have a digital camera, and I occasionally spend some time with my Playstation 2. Lastly, I have this pretty cool thing called a GearBox that plugs into my computer and my guitar and lets me record my awful attempts at music.

I think that’s it.  Probably not, though.  I’m sure I’m missing something.

Is my life better?

So what do these things do for me? What kind of impact do they have on my life?

Well, let’s see … my iPod blocks out the obnoxious underclassmen on my bus, and my cell phone keeps me in touch with my friends (most often through texting). My computer connects me to the Internet, where I waste a good portion of each and every day, while my stereo plays the ungodly amount of CDs I own. My DVR ensures that I always have a few episodes of The Simpsons and Whose Line is it Anyway? at my fingertips (and it lets me skip the commercials!).

So all in all, these handy little gadgets improve the quality of my life quite a bit, right? … right?!

To be honest, I don’t think they do. They provide me with distractions – and fun distractions at that. I mean, where would I be without my iPod? I would actually have to, you know, meet the people on my bus who I make unfair judgments about. I’d have to talk to them, get to know them. What a drag, you know?

And then there’s my computer – without that, I might actually have to go outside every once in awhile. I sure dodged that bullet! Without the Internet, I might have to pick up a newspaper to read the news, or go to the store to pick up a new CD, or talk to people face-to-face! (Or I suppose I could just text them.)

I bet you’re getting a little upset with me by now. “But Matt, things are so much easier now! Things are so much more convenient! You can’t argue with that!”

You’re absolutely right, I can’t. Performing a lot of routine tasks is vastly easier and more convenient than it would have been 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago. Google can answer just about any question you have. No longer are dictionaries or thesauruses or telephone books or almanacs necessary. All the information you could possibly desire, and then more, can be found somewhere on the Internet. So if it’s an easier or more convenient life you’re looking for, by all means, enjoy it, because it’s here.

Convenience isn’t everything

However, I’ve come to believe that convenience isn’t really very good at all. It makes us lazy. It keeps us from pushing ourselves. We have arguably everything we need at our fingertips, so why look any further?

But by far, I think the worst side effect of our new technological lifestyle is its impact on our social lives.

Think about it. When was the last time you had a really deep conversation with someone face-to-face? Not on the phone, not through texting, not through email or AIM or Facebook chat. And not just small talk, either. I’m talking about a conversation that required your full attention and required you to think hard … and maybe even adjust the way you perceived life. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know it’s been a while since I’ve had a conversation like that, face-to-face with someone I care about.

With all these new, quick, convenient methods of communicating, not only are we losing quite a bit of direct human contact, but we’re also losing interest in each other. Conversation, when it does happen, is so often just surface conversation and small talk. And how many times have you been hanging out with someone who seems to be more interested in his or her cell phone than with you? Are we really mixing up our priorities this badly?

Are you multi-tasking? Think about it

And while our daily lives are becoming more convenient, they’re also becoming more cluttered. Multi-tasking is bad. We have so many things to do in a single day, and as those things become simpler and easier, we begin dividing our attention across several of them at the same time.

It’s become difficult to focus your attention on one single task at hand without feeling bored. The most ridiculous example of this is texting while driving. Has your life seriously become so dependent on technology that you’re willing – and even eager –  to put your own life at risk in order to stay “connected”?

If you answered yes, then truthfully, if it was only your own life you were jeopardizing, I’d tell you to knock yourself out. But it’s not just your own life, and that should be obvious to anyone who breathes.

Think about thinking, too

Finally, we’ve become so preoccupied with all of our little technological devices that we’re starting to forget to think.

There’s hardly any downtime in our day-to-day lives any more, and if there is, most of us make a bee-line to the nearest distraction, whether it’s watching a show that’s been sitting on our DVR for a month, finding a new CD to download, listening to that CD we downloaded last week and forgot about, texting someone, updating our Facebook status, finding a new MySpace layout, playing a video game or surfing the Internet aimlessly.

But what about just relaxing? What about sitting down somewhere comfortable and tackling whatever has been eating away at your brain lately? What about starting a blog or keeping a journal to reflect on your daily life and get to know yourself a little better? What about, heaven forbid, reading a book to broaden your outlook on life?

I’m not asking you to agree with everything I’ve said here. I’m not asking you to give up your cell phone or the Internet for a day or anything like that. The only thing I’m asking you to do is think. Think about whether or not your life is really getting better with every new iPhone upgrade, or with every new application you install on Facebook.

My opinion is that technology and convenience aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but you need to make up your own opinion on the subject.

So what are you waiting for? Think!