too much technology

Photo: Viorel Sima/Shutterstock

What would happen if your computer crashed? What about if you lost your cellphone? If just thinking about these scenarios gives you anxiety, you’re not alone. Most of us rely so much on technology these days that losing it, even for a day, would be extremely inconvenient, and for some, life-altering. So what if you took that technology out of your life for a day voluntarily? What would your day look like if you couldn’t chronicle every step on Facebook or Twitter?

Here are are seven signs that we depend too much on technology:

1. If the Internet is down, work is over for the day. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been at jobs where if the Internet isn’t working, then work comes to a standstill. How can you work if you can’t send an email, right? Seriously. I was sent home one day at my last job because the Internet was down. Sure, I stopped to chat with a co-worker on the way out. And during that conversation, we came up with a way to effectively tackle a work-related problem. But otherwise, work was over for the day.

2. Buyer’s remorse is much more common. How many times have you ordered a dress, or a pair of shoes, or a television online, only to realize when it arrives at your door that you need to send it back? Buying things online is wonderfully convenient when it’s an item that you absolutely want and are sure to keep. But when it’s not, it can be an all-consuming thing just to figure out how to get it back where it came from. We recently bought a bench online, only to realize after we spent three hours trying to put it together that it wouldn’t work for us. Returning it assembled wasn’t an option and neither was taking it apart since we had hammered some of the screws in place. What did we do? We finally sold the brand-new bench on Craigslist for half the retail price. Internet shopping fail.

3. You don’t live in the moment. Picture the scenario: You are trying desperately to video your third-grader’s solo in her ballet recital. You can’t get the camcorder to turn on. When it finally does finish booting up, it tells you to change the battery pack. You do. And then you realize your daughter’s dance solo is over. There are so many moments we try to capture on video, only to realize that we’re not experiencing the moment we are trying to capture.

Dr. Nicholas Bowman, assistant professor of Communication Studies at West Virginia University, sees it differently, though. “One might counter-argue that while we sometimes remove ourselves from ‘our moment’ by watching something through our smartphone screen compared to watching it with our eyes, networked technologies allow us to live in the moments of millions of people every day — such as following with eyewitness accounts the riots in Egypt, or the tsunami that struck Japan a few years ago or even the delicious burger I prepared on my patio last night,” Bowman tells MNN.

4. Nobody knows a phone number. It’s very possible that you have your husband’s number memorized. It’s also very possible that he’s listed by name on your phone and you haven’t the faintest idea what his number is. If you lost your cellphone and all of your contacts, it’s very possible you’d have no idea how to get in contact with anyone, let alone someone important to you. And you can’t even look it up since cellphone numbers are unlisted.

5. You are dreading having to break up with your boyfriend face-to-face. You’re considering doing it via text message. How many of us today have serious conversations over text message? I know someone who got fired through a text. It isn’t pretty. Text messaging is convenient, but when it comes to getting your message across clearly, a face-to-face conversation is not only best; it is necessary. I can’t tell you how many fights have been started in my house by misconstruing a text or an email, not to mention the amount of time spent poring over text messages analyzing their inflection and meaning. (“What did he mean by ‘I’m OK’ — ‘I’m OK’ or ‘I’m OK’???) All that aggravation could have been saved if someone had just picked up the phone.

6. Brick and mortar stores are going the way of the dinosaurs. I don’t remember the last time I bought a box of diapers or a pair of headphones in the store. That’s because these days, you can order almost anything and everything online. Definitely more convenient for me, but the phenomenon is causing retailers to close hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores across the country. In 2013, retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and Office Max closed hundreds of their retail stores. An eerie recent news story told of Sears’ decision to turn some of its retail stores into massive data centers — a fitting turn of events in this largely digital age.

7. Without your phone, you feel naked. Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. Technology addiction is a reality these days, with people checking their emails and text messages as much as 30 to 40 times an hour. I know people who jokingly refer to their Blackberrys as “Crackberrys” because checking them is so addictive. But technology addiction is no joke. Technology can be a good thing, but too much of it can leave you stressed and strung-out. Studies have shown that smartphone usage can lead to catastrophic events such as car accidents, and are a primary cause of poor work-life balance.

So I guess the choice remains in each person’s hands. The balance we need to find is in appreciating and using technology the right way, but still knowing when to turn it off to experience life to its fullest. Using technology as a tool is the key, Bowman says. “In school, children don't have to memorize as many facts as their grandparents did because they can Google it, but this also gives children the ability to move past simple memorization and into more advanced levels of analysis, problem-solving, and synthesis of old knowledge into new ideas,” he explains.

And when technology isn’t at your fingertips (such as when you lose your cellphone), try to experience and enjoy the moments you have instead of focusing on what you don’t.

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