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September 25, 2013
Say our ancestors rose from the dead. For all they’d know, an Apple store would be a place of worship: An obscure, pagan temple where people of all circumstances commute to pay homage to the pretty, shiny lights that drive our choices. Stepping into an Apple store is like walking into a cult. I find myself completely drawn in by the hypnotic glowing screens.
It’s timely that the topic of our first blog carnival is “what would happen if technology stopped working?” because it’s something I’ve been pondering lately. Just a few days ago I was exploring the idea with my father when he was giving me a ride home from the mall. The topic came up because I had planned to meet a friend at the mall, but couldn't find her. So, naturally, I sent her a text to confirm where we would rendezvous. Later, I asked my dad how he made plans with friends when he was a kid, and what he would have done if he couldn't find them where they had planned to meet. First, he gave me a look. (Fellow teens are likely aware of that look- it's the askance glance of concern and disapproval for the direction our generation is headed).
Then, he cried, "It was the 80s, hon, not the Dark Ages.”
“I know! But seriously, what would you do? Would you have to, like, walk around the mall until you found them?” I pressed on.
My dad rolled his eyes. “Oh, the horror of being forced to actually look for your friends. Yes, I would.” (This, of course, was followed by a "when I was your age" tirade..)
But my thoughts were elsewhere. Walk around to find your friend? In a gigantic mall? How inconvenient! What a waste of valuable time!
This got me thinking about more scenarios in which my trusty iPhone 4 has saved me both time and energy. The answers are countless. I am thoroughly dependent on technology. It’s more than an addiction, an escape, or a refuge. The Internet and television are more than entertainment. Technology is my reality. I need it. I need it to find my way, know the weather, check the news, search math algorithms for homework, plan my schedule, communicate with people... and the list goes on forever. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I refresh my emails and Facebook. I lie there in bed at 5:00 am in the morning scrolling through data, making sure I didn’t miss anything drastically imperative. The other day, I carried out a conversation with a friend purely in hashtag terms. We told ourselves it was for irony’s sake, but we’ve all hashtagged in regular conversation. God, I feel I’m confessing in an AA meeting about an uncontrollable addiction. But I say this unabashedly because everyone I know is in the same boat.
Is humanity’s reliance on technology a tragedy? I’ve heard many arguments staunchly opposing the digital age, claiming that our reliance on computers will be our demise. This new era has brought together many people nostalgic for what they saw as a simpler time when humans were more connected with nature. I don’t necessarily feel that way. I believe each generation has had its vices. Addiction to modern technology is ours. As I acknowledge this, I feel apathetic, because this addiction is irreversible.
There are positives to our generation and the technology it’s brought on. There is a lot of progression, I believe, that comes with the Internet and social media. On the web, we are equalized. Everyone has a voice, no matter how obscure, controversial, salacious, intriguing, or ridiculous his opinion. And I don’t think technology and nature are mutually exclusive. We just have to be aware about unplugging every once in a while and enjoying the outdoors. Technology isn’t a complete blessing, or an absolute curse. It’s there, and we have to try and make the best of it.
Technological use is so ingrained in most of the minds of citizens who live in developed and developing countries that if came the time that it all just stopped working, we wouldn't know how to proceed. Without technology, our very social structures would collapse. There might be riots, but staying connected with each other would be so difficult that I don't think those riots would get too intense or stay for long. If we look at current events, technology has helped spread a "revolutionary fever" across the World these past few years. Social media has been enormous in fueling that. Without collective feelings of passion, those feelings are likely to soon die out.
Many of our needs are now met with technology as well. We use technology to commute. Machinery builds stuff, packages food, creates entire infrastructures. The medical innovations of the past decade have been astronomical. We have found cures and treatments for once deadly illnesses. Our economy is dependent on technology. We are dependent on technology to tell us about the economy. Politicians utilize social media as a tool for support. Advocates blog to fight for their beliefs. There are online petitions and donating websites. When something drastic happens in the World, we come together via the web.
Technology has solved so many of our problems. And, true, many of these problems have been exacerbated by technology, but they are so fundamentally a part of the world right now that if they go away there would just be so many holes in the systems that make us who we are.
The longest I have been without any direct contact with technology was this past summer, when I spent a month in the Rocky Mountains. It was a freeing experience. Although at first I suffered severe withdrawal, it became a relief to not stress about current events, e-mails, social issues, and so on simply because there is no connection at 11,000 feet. However, towards the end, I did look forward to reconnecting with the World. Because, that's really what technology has done for us. It's made the world as tiny as a click of our mouse.
Mankind would not be OK if technology simply stopped working. We were OK hundreds of years ago before the technological revolution, but now that we are used to these products, now that they have become a part of our needs, I don't believe we could just do away with technology. Beyond the addiction many of us have to social networking, our health, economy, rights, and livelihoods would be greatly at stake as well.

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