ARMSTRONG: Digital dilemma has no simple solution

Opinions Column: The Digital Dilemma

I always walk with my Bose headphones in my ears on my way class, even when I am not listening to music. I carry my laptop around every day, maybe not because I use it for classwork or writing, but because I might want to watch a YouTube video, or maybe I simply feel more comfortable with the internet so accessible — like my iPhone 7 isn’t sufficient for that. Before I deleted my Instagram for the third time this year, I wondered why I felt so good when people liked my photo and I wondered why I kept coming up with obscure, ridiculous reasons as to why I should stay "connected." Time and time again I have proven to myself that I would be better off without the overwhelming access to the social media accounts of people within my little sphere of life. Sure, I would be able to keep track of people I care about on Facebook, but why can't I just call, text or ask for a video from their really important event? I sought out and exhausted almost every reason for me to continue using social media — I knew I would do better in school, and I would better nourish my relationships and of course, I would spend my time more wisely. Still, why am I so attached to these online profiles that literally lack physical entities? Eventually, my question became: what unfathomable influence has technology had on the lives of not only millennials just like me, but on everyone in society?

It is understood that technology is a belabored and very often discussed topic, but it is deserving of such attention. Has a monster been created? Or a saving grace? Did we complicate or simplify our lives? To be honest, those who were the pioneers of these technological advancements most likely had no idea what they were getting into — and what they were introducing to society. The New York Times recently published an article written by Farhad Manjoo , which sheds some light on Mark Zuckerberg and his most promising, constantly evolving and captivating project — Facebook. Zuckerberg initially created the social network as a means to an end — connecting people. Though that is exactly what Facebook does in it’s gigantic, collaborative-encouraging environment, there are cons to the interface, and Zuckerberg questioned whether it was wise to connect the world in such a way. Not only because of Facebook, but because of the alluring view of the touch screen — buttons disappeared and faces constantly look down. Technology has become so intrusive and the intrusion has become socially acceptable. But the acceptance does not make it healthy. It is now normal to see not only students but young professionals and even parents walk and text, watch or scroll or even worse, drive and text.

Because of iPhones, Samsungs, Macbooks and Lenovos, access to a never-ending source of information is always available. Though the access can be and is utilized, users waste a majority of their precious time. Blogs and Netflix linger in the back of our minds while completing requisite tasks, while our Facebook and Instagram accounts are notifying us of every like, comment and share. We are becoming very distracted from what our real lives have to offer and it is unfortunate. Our ancestors were up to something when they took their time to stay in deep thought to perfect their craft. They knew what was most important when they considered family time untouchable and made sure there were no interruptions. Now, professionals email at home, on the train and bus, students do work wherever possible, and it is as though we are working ourselves to death. In class, students do not pay attention the way we used to, and focusing on one task at a time is considered boring. What has life come to? Not only that but because our eyes have been so consistently exposed to superficial versions of the way life could be lived, moments that had the capacity to be important have become mundane. Our eyes are calibrated to flowery and starry moments, all the time. We attempt to make monumental technological innovations like Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, but what differentiates us from them is that they worked hard to blaze their own path and were focused on the absence of what they created.

Our expectations have soared beyond what is deemed considerable, and I truly believe technology is to blame. Not to say that some great strides have been made by technology, but at what cost? The reason I continue to go back and forth between technology being a blessing and a curse is because it is a dilemma. That is what this column was about: the digital dilemma. And there is no simple, right answer, despite what I would like. Humans' relationship with technology is complicated, but we cannot just throw out everyone’s smartphone and laptop — they have become integral parts of our lives. All I can offer is awareness, and hope that I have made you consider what technology might be doing to you.

Yazmin Armstrong is a School of Engineering junior majoring in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Her column, "The Digital Dilemma," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Yazmin Armstrong

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