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The cell phones, laptops, mp3 players and cleverly designed combinations of the three our generation has attached itself to as part of our Gen-Y identity has turned us into anti-social, wi-fi dependent idiots — according to parents, scholars and professors that is — who’s constant pleas for us to go unplugged go largely in one ear bud and out the other. Our technology addiction in this highly consumerist culture causes the release of the latest gadget to make front page news, provoke riots and queue lines miles long. The backlash against the still very new and very rapidly expanding communication technology sector is also in full force. Fellow NSU writer Maggie Smith recently published an article about the benefits of her limited tech world and while typing, I discovered today was the National Day of Unplugging…Oops. Yet, after researching, playing, downloading and discovering on a couple of my favorite Apple products all day, I feel more accomplished than ashamed. Am I hypnotized by the Macintosh spell, or are there really endless benefits to this technology explosion?
While I feel naked heading to class without laptop in tow, I should note that I have lived without a cell phone for a couple months at a time, and of course on many days when it seems to wander off into that corner of my desk where my notes go to die. The time spent disconnected makes me extra sensitive to those occasions when a group of friends and I await dinner by competing in Scramble games rather than speaking. It is obvious there is a definite distance phones and laptops place in between us at times, mindlessly absorbed in social media when we could be actually socializing instead. It is sad, but doesn’t everything come with a price? Likewise, can’t awkward textual relationships be balanced out by face-to-face communication and optimum utilization of technology to enhance our lives? Absolutely.
In the college world, the organization and portability of a laptop, free from physical clutter, is a nice break from searching a desk strewn in chicken scratched papers. Of course, the bonus features they and other mobile devices bring aren’t too shabby either. If you need a Google Maps avatar to create a path to a job interview in a new city, check the delinquency status of your bank account, design Spring Break workouts or just to create a playlist in the coveted but stressful position as pregame DJ, don’t fret. There’s an app for that. The technology antagonists might call this use and reliance laziness. However, if we become more efficient via applications that simplify everyday tasks, we become freer to spend quality time on activities that really matter.
Furthermore, while we are most familiar with the often excessive use and abuse of technology in the U.S., it’s not just the average young adult benefiting from the wave of tech growth in the last few years. iPads and other tablets have been touted as revolutionary communication tools for children with autism and multinationalcorporations alike. Cell phones have been key to rapid growth in developing countries as they are less expensive, don’t require the infrastructure that landlines do, offer features of the internet and are seen as a symbol of independence and empowerment. This holds true even in the very poorest environments where disposible income is usually spent not on improving basic living conditions, but on connectivity and luxury items. Moreover, thanks to the continuing spread of internet access, farmers in the remotest of locations can take advantage of world market prices (rather than state enforced ones) and ex-pats working globally can share their experiences with anyone via Skype.
Despite constant criticism surrounding our enslavement to technology and the annoyingly quick pace of updates and innovations in technology, we all owe something to the geniuses revolutionizing the way we live. Whether it’s the ability to take an EKG mobile in a developing country, or business enhancement through mobile technology on Fifth Avenue, the brave new world of telecommunications is here to stay and we should embrace it. After all, can anyone sit through a lecture without Temple Run?