In the 20 minutes that it takes me to walk to campus, I can easily listen to six or seven different songs. It is simply a fact of life now that most of us here at Geneseo have some kind of technological knowledge. Computer power and the expansive reach of the Internet are amazing. Especially since one marvel merely compounds the success of the next and no one doubts that cell phones will one day become as obsolete as the telegraph.
While all this technology has served to bring us fresh and easily accessible channels of communication and entertainment, it has also made us all somewhat hermit-like in our behavior. People do not often notice each other's behavior as odd when they themselves act similarly. There is, however, something disturbing about these newfound wonders. The push-button age has always been accused of fattening the body and dulling the mind of the common person but usually this is just dismissed as a kind of reactionary conservatism.
It cannot be understated, however, how often people take technology for granted. People don't realize, though, that technology has made certain valuable experiences virtually obsolete. Instead of gathering around the TV as a group at a particular time, we now have the luxury of downloading TV episodes and watching them at our own leisure. You might ask whether or not this is a bad thing. I say that, in many respects, it is. Instead of watching television with friends or family and sharing the anticipation or the humor with them, individuals watch an episode of CSI or Grey's Anatomy simply based on a compulsion to know what happens next or because they like one of the actors, etc.
There is certainly some merit to hearing the inflection in a person's voice instead of guessing at their thoughts while staring at a computer screen or a phone display. Obviously people have chosen to forgo these little things for the sake of speed and ease, but my question is: how much we are willing to forgo?
On a more practical level, these fun toys do have disadvantages. Consider how easy it is to become distracted by music if you can control that music instead of being resigned to listen to it as background ambience. Most people know that video games and the Internet have not exactly been known to instill academic drive, but the social impact of technology is often ignored. Instead of socializing out of necessity people can lock themselves in a kind of technological prison and maintain that they are still "available."
Few will completely ignore their phones when talking face to face with another person and some don't even consider it a slight to break the conversation altogether so as to enter in a more important one. Of course, this faux pas is only really noticeable by the person who does not have a cell phone in his or her hand.
Sadly, I know that for most of us, the act of checking our cell phones and changing our MP3 player has become so ritualized that it has moved the world away from the idea of "us" toward the idea of "me", my cell phone, my music, my little world of perfect settings. Let's hope that this little world of technology doesn't become so easy and perfect that it eclipses the bigger one.