Ordering groceries simply using our voice. Speaking face to face with people thousands of miles away. Having the ability to share everything we do, as we do it.
There is no question that our relationship with technology has developed beyond recognition over the last few decades, and even the last few years. We can do more, travel further, and delegate mundane tasks, freeing up our precious time. Technology is without a doubt a huge part of our lives; research shows that the top 10% of smartphone users touch their phones an average of 5427 times per day. Even the lesser users rack up 2617 touches a day. And with over 70% of Americans sleeping next to their smartphones, tech is something we eat, sleep and breathe. But is the infiltration of technology into our lives a positive thing? Or are there repercussions and consequences which me may not realise we are paying the price for?
There is a hugely under appreciated sitcom called ‘Selfie’, starring the wonderfully talented Karen Gillan. She plays Eliza Dooley, a self obsessed, tech obsessed woman, who’s primary joys in life come from counting her Instagram followers and taking selfies. As the series progresses, she undergoes a ‘My Fair Lady’ transformation and realised she has the ability to be an intelligent, kick-ass female who seeks validation from no-one. (Amazing TV show, totally check it out.) There is a scene in one episode where she admits that she “eats, sleeps and breathes” her phone – using sleeping apps to ensure good quality sleep, calorie counters and nutritional apps to monitor her food and health, and even a breathalyser on a night out to see how many more drinks she should have. This is of course a parody, but it got me thinking about how much we rely on our phones, and technology in general. In a world where there is an app for everything, so we run the risk of becoming totally reliant on technology, to the point where owe absolve ourselves of personal responsibility?
In one sense, apps are brilliant. We can instantly find new recipes, learn nutritional content, analyse our sleep cycles, lean a language, find our way in a new city, order a pizza…the possibilities are endless, and the ability to access so much knowledge is a brilliant step for society, equalising access to literature, music, history, politics, and education in general. I’m currently leaning 3 languages with the help of apps, and I am progressing at a much faster and more consistent rate than I would have expected (I’m terrible at languages!) due to the immediate access, interactive features and instant feedback. While working, I can convert between currencies instantly using an app, and reply to queries and emails at the touch of a button. So far so good.
There is of course, another side to this. I recently visited a brand new city, one I had never visited passed through, or knew anybody in. In many ways, it was a total adventure, and my apprehension was overtaken by excitement. I left the railway station, snapping the city sign as I left. I exited the barriers with my ticket on an app, Instagrammed a few more pics of the inside of the station, and exited into a totally new street. Out of habit, I loaded up the maps to find my destination, and I caught myself. I suddenly realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I was lost. Like properly, wonderfully lost in a brand new city, never knowing what surprises were round the next corner. Thanks to maps, I always find locations easily, and as a result spend most of the time with my eyes glued to my phone, not soaking in the world around me. Maps can obviously be a godsend if you are running late in a new city, and in some ways give you the luxury of getting lost; you can always turn on your locations to find your way back. However, just for today, just for once, I decided to let myself get totally lost.
And boy am I glad I did.
I found myself looking at things, smiling at people, noticing tiny details about the place and the architecture and the weather. I dawdled to watch an incredible musician playing his heart out on the street. I investigated a tiny, winding, Harry Potter-esque alleyway and found a fantastic tiny little shop which smelled amazing and was run by the most fascinating woman I’ve ever met. I ended up by the river, and spent a while walking along, just enjoying the atmosphere. I had no idea where I was, and it was incredible. I also made a point of not uploading anything; if there was a particularly beautiful moment, I took a picture, but instead of immediately uploading and filtering it, I then put my phone back in my pocket and looked at it a while longer. And when I needed to get back, I loaded up the map, and quickly and safely found myself where I needed to be.
Technology is amazing. It gives us freedom, choices, knowledge. Alexa can order you more butter without you having to lift a finger. Roomba does your cleaning for you; definitely a place where technology is a winner! Apps can help you track and monitor every part of your life. Tech is defiantly here to stay, and will only improve in efficiency and prevalance. I am in no way shouting “burn the tech!” and demanding we all live naked in a hippy commune watching the corn grow (though if that’s your thing, I am so coming for a holiday.) What is important to remember is that we control technology, not the other way round. Sometimes it’s nice to switch off the WiFi, walk to the shop, take a moment to stop and soak in the vibes. Have a conversation without constantly checking your phone; free yourself from that stress.
As great as tech is, it still can’t describe the way it feels to see a beautiful sunset. To feel the magic of a Christmas market. To experience the butterflies of seeing someone new. To describe the feeling of looking into the eyes of someone you love. To smell the rain, and feel the freshness of the air after a storm. To feel the freedom of knowing who you are, what you want, and following your heart. For those things, we still need humans. And I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing at all.