Logging out: balancing technology and life

COMMENTARY BY
LOUIS BALZANI

d technology are slowly taking over our lives.
Desktops and laptops are more powerful and accessible than ever before. The smartphones in our pockets connect us to just about anything we need at any time we need it. We will soon be wearing this technology as the power of email, phone calls and pictures creeps onto our wrists and into our glasses. Invisible systems manage everything from subway systems to the money in a college student’s bank account. We are told that we are living in a technological world and that is just the way it is; the march of progress halts for no man, so get used to it.
It is an attractive world, for sure. It is all too easy to succumb to the perfectly beveled edges of a MacBook Pro, the superficial joy of silly cat videos and the endless refreshing of our inboxes. We live our lives on these devices, and many of us consider them integral to how we function. Teens and young twenty-somethings may scarcely remember a time when the entirety of human knowledge was not a few short clicks away.
In fact, we have come to rely on these technologies to the point where they have fundamentally changed how we interact with our world. Why drive 10 minutes and meet a friend for lunch when we can just message them through Hangouts? Why attend a concert and forever relive it in your memory when we can watch it through the screens of our smartphones as we record it? Why befriend a new neighbor in real life when we can cozy up to a digital one in “The Sims”?
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with these technological activities and, indeed, they are often incredibly useful. It is when we start to naturally see the world in these terms that problems tend to arise.
These conveniences can consume us so entirely that we often panic when unforeseen circumstances take them away from us. When the power goes out or our Internet connection drops, what do we do? We lose access to our emails, our videos and our precious social media. Our modern way of life disappears and we feel like cavemen, forced to engage in such archaic activities as reading books and talking to each other. Some of us go into withdrawal, desperately counting the minutes until we can continue to binge on “House of Cards” or check Facebook just one more time.
We are addicted, and it is getting worse. A Daily Mail article from 2010 estimates that the average person spends seven hours a day using technology, and this number will only increase as our gadgets become even more accessible and capable. The international experiment known as Unplugged found that a majority of almost 1,000 college students physically failed to avoid using a technological device for 24 hours in a row; some even experienced itchiness and paranoia, much like smokers do when they try to quit cold turkey. Admittedly, this is an extreme example of such a situation, but the more we depend on these devices, the harder it is to detach ourselves from them.
This all may sound apocalyptic and preachy, so let me be clear. We will not save society if we revert to writing 10-page papers by hand or communicating exclusively by snail mail. This would actually be a massive step backward. We will not all turn into bleary-eyed gadget addicts if we keep watching “The Big Bang Theory” or scrolling through the NBC News app. Technology should be embraced, but not to the point where it smothers us. Like most things in life, moderation is key. We can and should step away from the “next big thing” once in a while, if only to stop and smell the roses we can actually touch and feel.
Technology is amazing, and it helps us do amazing things. However, we must ensure that it is augmenting our humanity instead of replacing it.

Contact the writer:
louis.balzani@scranton.edu

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