Twenty years ago I had few gadgets at my disposal. I had a watch, calculator, taper recorder, stereo radio with tape and record players, CD player, DVD player, VHS player, PlayStation, landline telephone, and I was just starting to build my first computer. My mother had a cellphone from her company and a pager. These gadgets were hot items back in the day and seem like ancient artifacts when looking back. I knew something big was coming when I began exploring the interwebs or internet in the mid-90s.
Over the years, I upgraded gadgets and reluctantly upgraded my phones when they became obsolete and were no longer serviceable. I was the early adopter on some gadgets and the late adopter on others that seemed too far out of my price range or unnecessary at the time. Currently, I have a smart phone, Spire, Microsoft Band 2 (smart watch), a heart monitor, home computer, work laptop, Microsoft Surface Pro laptop, wireless headphones, iPad, Kindle, and Alexa integrated into my home lighting. I can ask Alexa to play music, tell me the weather, set alarms, or turn on/off lights. Alexa is the closest thing I’ve seen to an affordable artificial intelligence. Though admittedly it took a while to get used to, as I often feel there is another woman in the house. I never would have guessed this technology would be a reality twenty years ago.
Is this too much tech? When is it too much? Currently, I have at least four active email accounts I check regularly and all are connected to my phone. This includes my work email, which I check even on the weekends. Three of my email accounts have calendars, which all update on my phone calendar. I set reminders for myself all the time even to take my vitamin or water the plants. My days are busy at work, and without these reminders, I may not realize my plant is dead. Did I mention I’m really good at killing plants? The reminder fixed this, and my plant is alive thanks to technology telling me what to do and when.
Most people prefer to text, and I rarely receive an actual phone call. Even Facebook has an instant messenger app for the phone, and I have a Group Me app for my classmates, so I receive messages from three different sources on my phone. It’s tough to toggle back and forth. I’m sure there’s an app for that, but I’m too busy to look for it. With technology comes the expectation of instant gratification and the sense of duty to check and monitor all emails and messages, lest you miss replying to one.
But wait, there’s more! This is just getting good! My calendar reminders buzz my phone and my smart watch and they also display on my computer. My smart watch is a life saver and keeps me on time. It also doubles as my alarm by gently buzzing me awake, which is a huge improvement from the noisy alarms of the past. The watch also tracks my sleep. I can look back in the app with fond memories of my insufficient sleep patterns and rejoice when I finally get more than 7.5 hours. To top it off, the Spire monitors my breathing and buzzes me if I’m too tense or sedentary. Why would I be tense with all this technology?
People are constantly wired into their gadgets. Twenty years ago a large concert was nice and dark with a thousand hands dancing in the air. Now, the crowd glows with a sea of smart phones recording the concert. The concert goers will likely never view the videos again. I know I haven’t. Not to mention, the phones obstruct the view for many others, and that is just plain rude. Why are they recording and watching life through the phone monitor? They should be experiencing it! This leads me to unplugging.
Technology is a tool, but it can easily overwhelm and disrupt lives if not controlled. There are times I honestly feel I have too many emails, reminders, and buzzes going on at once. The key is to unplug from time to time and combine technologies to limit how many apps and apparatuses you have at your fingertips. Go for a vacation in the mountains where cell coverage is spotty and you can’t easily access the outside world. Take your gadgets off; all of them and learn to disconnect.
Another more frequent method to unplug is to set a time each evening to put all your devices to bed. Don’t dock your cellphone on your nightstand. Instead, put it in another room away from your bedroom, and never check it right before sleeping. Other options are sensory deprivation tanks where you float in pure darkness in a soundproof tank. This method allows you to forget the world for a short period of time. If done properly, it is the ultimate mediation and studies have found sensory deprivation can enhance creativity and learning. Embracing the Void is a great article for more information on isolation tanks.
Managing the constant flow of new gadgets into our daily lives is a necessary evolution of technology. Use them as tools and not as a replacement for life and you will find yourself working in harmony with technology rather than battling each ding and buzz. I hope to be around to see replicators, teleportation, and flying cars. Who knows? Maybe, we will see these in the next twenty years and end world hunger, pollution, and the dreaded traffic jam!