Smartphone addicts anonymous


me3The Internet was down. I called our provider — using a phone number I found, thanks only to my smartphone — and they said they would send someone out on Thursday. I thought, “Oh great, we have to survive two days without Internet.” Then they clarified and said, “Next Thursday.”

Don’t they know we are college students? Just about every assignment and paper I have requires the Internet. Now obviously we could go to the library or a friend’s house, and we could survive without Internet just fine if we really had to.

But this got me thinking. Am I too dependent on technology?

On a day-to-day basis, I rely on technological things because they’re just so handy. Before noon, I’ve used electricity, my phone multiple times (alarm, four apps, email, calendar, texting), my car, a treadmill, my roommate’s blow dryer, my straightener, the stove, the toaster, the elevator, my coworker’s iPad, my professor’s computer, the classroom projector and my Mac at work.

There’s not a lot I do without technology. My mom tells me it’s a bad thing that my smartphone is another appendage of my body. To that I reply, “Don’t you wish you could have an alarm clock, organizer, camera, calculator, communication device, news aggregator, ESPN score center and GPS with you at all times?”

I think smartphones are simply the best thing since sliced bread.

A lot of people say we depend on technology for too much. Do they also think we rely on our cars too much? They ask what we would do if suddenly computers stopped working — an unlikely event. Should we be figuring out another way to get to work should all cars break down one day?

Yes, it’s been a problem once or twice when I am lost and can’t get 4G and need to use my maps app. But those instances are few and far between. It rarely happens that I need technology and don’t have it.

Technology isn’t this terrible thing. I hear all the time that technology and the media are bad (a sore point for me, since I am in the media) and I shouldn’t have my phone at the dinner table and the Internet tears families apart. But let’s not forget that other things can be bad too: books, shopping, art, food, plays, games and even people!

I guess I just wonder why people hate technology so much. I understand it can be harmful. Yes, some people spend too much time on video games, the web, texting and TV. I’ve read the studies about how technology results in obese children, memory loss and short attention spans. But if it weren’t technology, it would be something else like it has been in the past.

Sure, activities using technology shouldn’t replace things like face-to-face interaction or healthy exercise (may I point out Skype and treadmills are useful for both). But there are plenty of things — laziness, reading, shyness, obsessions and hobbies— that can also distract us from healthy balance in our lives. We shouldn’t put all the blame on technology.

In fact, technology helps me find balance in my life. I can do things efficiently, preserve memories, track the distance of my run, read my scriptures while waiting in line and keep in touch with people.

I would argue that technology isn’t hurting me but is actually helping me. Tweeting isn’t hindering my ability to write a literary analysis; it’s helping me write concisely. Facebook doesn’t keep me from face-to-face conversations; it helps me keep in touch with people I’d otherwise lose track of. Internet searches don’t ruin my research skills; they actually enhance my seeking for information. A seatbelt keeps me safe. My camera helps me preserve memories. The TV gives me live news from around the world.

Kids these days may not know how to use an encyclopedia, but that’s irrelevant now. Why would you need a dusty 24-volume set of books that will be outdated in a matter of hours when you have Google? I remember learning how to do calculus without a calculator and thinking, when would I be calculator-less and need to integrate something complicated?

It’s messy right now because we’re in the midst of change. In hindsight, we’ll think that everything replaced by technology is archaic. I don’t hear anyone worrying about how kids don’t know how to use a cassette player anymore.

So embrace technology. Use it efficiently and to its fullest capabilities — but like all things in life, find balance and don’t abuse it.

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