by Lakshmi Sadhu
Forewarning: This post is NOT a tirade against technology, despite how it comes across. It would be absurd for it to be one in the first place; the irony of me sitting here in front of old faithful – my significantly outdated Macbook – hammering away on my keyboard about why we all need to get a technology’s equivalent of a juice cleanse, isn’t lost on me.
“The clock ominously struck two, and my soul departed from my body. Her face was eerily illuminated by the flickering satanic red light radiating off the gadget in her hands. She laughed like a mad woman, so enraptured was she at that dancing cat on her phone.”
Sound like an excerpt from a thriller novel? No dear readers, it’s actually a very real excerpt from what transpired yesterday when I got back to my room late at night, only to find my roommate laughing wildly in the dark.
We live in a time where the vast expanse of human knowledge is just a click away – quite literally at our fingertips. Thanks to computers, people can obtain college degrees without ever having to set foot in an actual class, and smart phones that fit into our palm can tell us about the activity of the clouds. We can see and talk, in crystal clarity, with people who live across oceans in different continents.
Ergo, no one is unaware, especially us students, of just how marvellous technology can be, of how much the world has progressed because of it. Technology was meant to make the world a smaller place and connect us with people from far corners of the globe. It was supposed to make our lives easier and more comfortable; it was meant to save us time and effort on menial tasks – time and effort we could instead spend on accomplishing things that actually matter to us.
Instead, technology has relegated us into our own little bubbles, isolating us from others in ways that are most fundamental to being a human being. We have made our lives more efficient and easy, but at what cost? Society’s debilitating dependence on technology seems almost epidemic. I have personally always had a love-hate relationship with technology. More accurately, I love to hate it, and hate that I love it.
It’s not an uncommon sight, people engrossed in their phones regardless of where they are. Restaurants, busy street intersections, public transportation, libraries, parks – you name it! There is always a disturbingly significant chunk of the population completely entranced by whatever the little digital screen has to offer, oblivious to everything else except their friend’s latest update on some social networking site.
Another addiction common among millennials is the religious fervour with which they take photos of their food before eating it at restaurants, as if someone online actually cares about the avocado salad they ate for lunch. Social etiquette goes out the window as they take photos from every angle possible, sometimes even standing on the chair in the middle of the restaurant, all for that perfect Instagram-worthy shot.
A couple of days ago, during a walk across King’s College Circle, I noticed that a staggering number of students walking across like me were looking down at their phones. It was a beautiful day too; the gentle breeze raked up the amber coloured leaves, spiralling and blowing them across the landscape, eventually showering some disgruntled black squirrels. A part of me was concerned that they were missing out on the mundane beauty enveloping them. So deeply buried they were in their phones, that the other part of me was terrified that I would be doomed to make eye contact with the top of people’s heads my whole life.
Before you all gather and take up arms against my “holier than thou” attitude, know this: I am that person. Regretfully so. However, I am trying not to be that person, and you should too. Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that technology is a tool and not an appendage. We need to find a way to weave ourselves out of the technological web we’ve got ourselves entangled in. More importantly, we need to take back our autonomy as human beings and realise that we’ve become slaves to our own creation.
“But, Lakshmi!”, you protest, “Are you suggesting we ignore messages and calls from our friends? Live like little hermit crabs devoid of a social life?”
Let me put it this way instead. Our phones give others accessibility to us 24/7 regardless of where we actually are, and vice-versa. It’s become an obligation to reply to texts immediately, maintain extended virtual conversations, and dedicatedly like friends’ posts on social networking sites. I could be solitarily enjoying a delicious cup of Pu-erh at a cafe, and still be obligated to react immediately to the familiar “Ding!” of my phone. My present has now increasingly became more and more about the people who aren’t even actually in it! This leads to a subtle restlessness within us, where we become incapable of just relaxing into the present moment without distracting ourselves, or being virtually distracted by someone else.
There’s something severely defective not only about the dynamics of inter-personal relationships in an age of technology, but also our relationship with ourselves in that age.
I propose this: Get off your phone! (Although not right now if you’re reading this on your phone…) Your friend will survive if she doesn’t get a response back in 0.5 seconds. Your steaming bowl of miso ramen will taste just as good if no one knows you ate it. You will feel more liberated and relaxed when you realise you can own the present moment. In fact, when you learn to wean yourself off technology, you’ll even be able to focus better in class without being distracted every 10 minutes by the next viral hit on the internet. You’ll also sleep better at night, without the blue light from your phone or laptop stimulating your brain and keeping you awake.
I recommend downloading a computer programme called F.lux, which changes the colour temperature of your screen to fit the time outside. The result is reduced eye strain and a less disrupted sleep cycle. I use it myself!
Finally, I’d like to leave you readers with this music video by my favourite YouTubers. The actual song starts from 0:40 seconds. In the immortal words of Rhett and Link, “…it doesn’t love you, it’s gonna die one day!”
What do you guys think about our dependency on technology?