We ended our semester with a final Great Ed Tech Debate and it was definitely a great debate. The focus was looking at whether or not we have become too dependent on technology and if what we really need is to unplug. I think this is an extremely important topic to discuss for everyone, not just those of us in our class. Technology has become a part of our modern day lives, but do we rely on it too much? Do we really need to be on our phones as much as we are?
The first group agreed that we do need to unplug because we are becoming too dependent as well as lonely. The connections that we make online may give us a false sense of our ‘real life’ relationships. Even though we are more connected now than ever before, many people are feel more lonely. As humans we crave intimacy and scientists have proven that to be intimate you need to be vulnerable which requires courage. Social media removes vulnerability and courage because we can pick and choose what we want to say, when we want to say it and how we want to say it. I’m sure we’ve all written a status or post to go back and re-write it 2 or 3 times until it’s exactly the way we want it to sound (or hope it to sound). It is interesting to think about that when we think about all of the statuses and updates we read in a day. How many are authentic? Or are they all authentic? Maybe even more authentic because we have the opportunity to think about what we want to say and put our thoughts together in a way that really gets our points out there?
Studies have also found that using technology can be just as addictive as drugs and that many millennials are becoming attached to their phones. I think that there is a lot of pressure for students to keep up with everything on social media. Even for myself, I often find myself suffering from “FOMO” (fear of missing out) even though my friends and family don’t even update things that much. I find myself going back and forth between different social media apps throughout the day checking in to make sure I didn’t miss some major announcement like an engagement, pregnancy or birth. The constant ‘need’ to check in seems to be something that just happens naturally throughout the day. It’s almost as if I do it without thinking…it’s an automatic action. I often wonder why I feel the need to check in so often. I’m really not missing out on anything but the moment that’s happening right in front of me in ‘real life’. I try to make a conscious effort to put my phone in a different room while I am with my kids so that it’s not a distraction. But then they start doing something cute and I immediately go to reach for my phone to capture them on camera. Not having my phone with me, I usually run to grab it and by the time I get back the moment has passed. If I had my phone I would have been able to capture the moment.
But does capturing the moment on my phone have the same affect as capturing it with my own eyes without my device? A study has shown that we enjoy some moments more when we capture it with our phones. I would totally agree with these findings. However I do think that there is a difference between experiencing something while capturing every moment of it with our phones and experiencing it without capturing every moment with our phones. I think that taking pictures/videos can be a great way to experience an event. It’s nice to have something to look back on. But just like everything else I think there needs to be a balance. At a Garth Brooks concert I was at a few weeks ago, a lady in front of me recorded the WHOLE THING on her phone! She was basically watching the whole concert through her phone screen. Half the time the image being recorded was blurry because she was zoomed in and she wasn’t able to follow him the whole time because he moved all over. We made the comment that she will wake up in the morning and realize that wasn’t the best decision. Now if she had a tripod or something set up to record it so she could watch the whole thing in person and then be able to watch a quality recording of the video the next day, that would be a different story. I took some videos and a few pictures, but I knew I didn’t want to be on my phone the whole time because I would miss out on the experience I wanted in going to see him. I can watch youtube videos of his performances any day, so I wanted to make sure that I took it all in while I was there in person. Did I take some pictures and videos? Of course I did…two pictures before of me and the people I was with, and three short Snapchat videos of a few of my favourite songs. Do I regret not taking more? Not one bit.
Moving to the disagree side I have to admit I completely agree that it almost seems impossible to fully unplug. Even when we are in our cars, going for a walk or run, camping, travelling we are connected in someway. We use our phones to capture images that we will most likely share when we get a chance. Even when we are offline we are thinking about the online world. In reality, our offline and online worlds are not two distinct parts of our lives, they are our whole lives existing as one augmented reality. It’s pretty clear that our online lives can exist without a lot of our offline lives, but do our offline lives depend on our online lives in the same way? Our offline lives existed long before our online lives, but this isn’t the case for our children who have been born with a digital life right from the day they were born without having any say about it. The idea of unplugging is something that our children will have to learn to manage more than we have had to because technology is still fairly new for most of us (10-15 years). Unplugging may also mean something different to each person. To me, unplugging is stepping away from social media most of all, and putting away our devices. I personally don’t worry about unplugging from TV but maybe that’s because I don’t use it too often, or I feel like when I do use it it’s to watch the news or a movie with my kids which I would consider to be positive uses.
Technology certainly plays a large role in our lives. It allows us to connect with people near and far. We can network, build friendships, meet new people and find communities that we feel welcome in. It allows us to video chat or FaceTime with no added cost. It helps us manage our personal lives including our mental and physical health. I think we can all see value in technology and appreciate social media but we have to be aware of the amount of time we spend on the devices we have. When it starts to take precedence over quality time spent face to face with our family, friends, spouses and kids I think we need to take a step back and think about how we can unplug and reconnect with the people around us.