If something ever happened to my laptop that destroyed it forever – say, exorbitant amounts of hot, freshly brewed coffee for instance – I would cry. First, because I was really looking forward to drinking that coffee and second, because after one clumsy incident, I would lose the two-pound rectangle that holds half of my life in its hardware. In an instant, the records of my college experience: mediocre essays, Chinese videos, and Netflix, would be lost to me.
It’s true. I’m emotionally attached to my laptop and my phone. Not excessively so, but it’s definitely somewhat sentimental. I do everything on those two devices. I use them when I wish to be productive and also when I wish to procrastinate.
The Internet is addicting and Wi-Fi is necessary. The Internet enables us to find anything and everything in an instant, and to communicate with each other in real time to receive breaking news as it occurs. Constantly being connected to Wi-Fi causes us to expect that we – as well as those around us – will receive updates on the dot throughout the day. For example, I am always checking my phone. The first thing I do in the morning is to check my phone for messages. As an international student, whose hometown is twelve hours behind Shanghai, it’s guaranteed that I have messages in the morning from friends and family back home who go to sleep just as I wake up. The first thing when arriving anywhere – café, restaurant, mall – is to find and connect to WiFi. When I’m out all day with no Wi-Fi and no data, the first thing I do when I return home is check my phone for any notifications. Moreover, I get tense during classes in which there is a strict no-phone rule, especially when I hear my phone vibrating with a new message. All I can think is: I have to see the message. What if it’s something important?
I realize this kind of behavior is definitely evidence of over-reliance on technology. Nowadays, there is much debate around the commonplace use of technology, specifically the spread of personal technological devices and their effect on society. Most of the debate is as negatively centered: technology causes lower attention spans or technology causes the loss of conversation.
I was discussing this issue with my friend, Kate, the other day. Kate’s mother only checks her email once a day; Kate wonders how one can check their email only once a day. Kate texts a friend; Kate waits, what in her mind is an unnecessarily long amount of time (two hours), for a response. As my friend’s assumptions show, with the spread of technology in everyday life, it seems that there are new societal assumptions, especially among our generation, concerning the use of technology. In essence, everyone should be plugged into technology at all times.
We not only hear all this debate on the cons of technology, but we also experience it. By default, then, we experience the pros of technology as well. Professors might complain about cell phone use in class, but in other terms, technology is good for the student. Large databases of research papers online make a student’s life easier when researching for a paper. There are so many apps out there to help people with their dating lives, their weight loss plans, their productivity, etc. We are communicating with each other on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. When something big is happening in the world, our devices combined with the Internet enable us to find out within seconds of the incident and continually get updates as the event is happening. Sure, I check my phone constantly, but I also spend the majority of a day engaged in face-to-face conversation, socializing with friends. I don’t use my phone or my laptop for only mindless things. I also check my phone for school-related messages. For example, if, hypothetically speaking, of course, an email was finally sent out that explicitly explained the whole study abroad application process, I would use my phone to read it. In terms of GPC, my phone simply keeps me informed of the world around me, whether it be my friend world, my NYUSH world, or the world of international affairs.
Society is changing. The way people perceive the world and technology’s role in it is changing as well. As anyone who has been on a Shanghai subway during rush hour can testify to, everyone is on their phones. We can’t avoid technology. It has its flaws, but so does everything else. We need to learn how to balance productivity with procrastination.
This article was written by Baaria Chaudhary. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
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