I can’t help it, I’m plugged in.I check my e-mail when I wake up in the morning, and I listen to podcasts in my car on my way to school via my iPod, which I plug into an FM transmitter to play on my stereo. Later in the day, I call home on my pocket-size cell phone and pick up movies I rented online via Netflix. As much as anyone, I’m part of the digital age.
But I’m also a late techno-bloomer. I can remember my family’s first computer and spending hours (illegally) downloading Wallflowers on Napster.
It might be this dichotomy that makes me somewhat cautious toward how technology affects culture and, particularly, how it makes people relate to one another. So when I see students walking across campus with those ubiquitous little white earphones in their ears or chatting on their cell phones, I wonder if we’re becoming disconnected from one another.
But then I realize that I’m romanticizing something that never existed, and that my cell phone battery needs charging.
Long before iPods or cell phones, people “pretended they weren’t home,” or said, “maybe he/she didn’t see us.” Half the United States might not have even been settled if the settlers hadn’t been avoiding other people. If anything, technology isn’t the cause of our isolation, but more likely, we’ve invented most of our technology to properly assist in our desire for isolation. Now, if I don’t want to talk to someone on the sidewalk, I can just flip open my phone and pretend I’m too busy to talk.
Just because people don’t make small talk on the bus doesn’t mean we are living in some sort of isolationist distopian nightmare; it only means society has finally recognized the truth: I don’t know you, you don’t know me, and we don’t have anything to talk about.
The real problem is, we in the public like to blame our own inconsistencies on something else, and technology is an easy target. It’s a lot easier to blame Apple and its little, white, soul-stealing goblin for not talking to Grandma than it is to realize that you really don’t even want to talk to Grandma.
It’s much easier to think that getting rid of a possession will solve a problem, even though the problem is really rooted in all of us. Not listening to “Where it’s At” or “Louie, Louie” isn’t going to suddenly make me more willing to talk and smile at everyone I see.
Take, for example, the seminal classic book “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. In his essay, Thoreau champions the power of economy, solitude and returning to nature. In the last few years, there’s been a very small wave of “Walden” revivalists, including the PBS television show, “Frontier House,” which takes a modern family and puts them in, well, a frontier house.
The irony of watching an anti-technology show on television aside, I can’t imagine how getting rid of technology is going to make people understand themselves and the world any better.
Being from East Texas, I can’t think of anything more isolating than being alone in the woods. Which is worse, being plugged into an iPod or living in a hut in the woods? Yet some people believe that living an outdated life will reconnect us to one another.
It’s much easier to run away from a problem than to actually deal with it, and while we do need to seriously think about how technology affects us, we’re not solving any problems by demonizing it and running away.
So until researchers find inherent iPod health risks, I’ll stay plugged in.
Features editor Darren White is a junior news-editorial major from Tyler.